Child Bereavement UK is showing its support for Children’s Grief Awareness Week 2016 (17-23 November) by raising awareness of bereaved children’s needs.
The week kicks off with Children’s Grief Awareness Day on 17 November – a global day designed to help people become more aware of the needs of grieving children and of the benefits they obtain through support – and continues with a week of activities across the UK.
This year, the theme is #MakeTime2Listen, which emphasises that it’s really important for grieving children to know they have somewhere to turn: someone who will listen to them.
Child Bereavement UK recognises that children can grieve very differently from adults and the support they receive therefore needs to be different too.
The charity supports families when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying or when a child faces bereavement. It also trains professionals such as teachers and midwives to help them better understand and meet the needs of the grieving families they may encounter during the course of their work.
In March 2015, when Josh was 9 years old, his dad, John, died from pneumonia. Now 11 years old, Josh, along with his mum Liz, talked to us about their experience and the support they have received from Child Bereavement UK.
“I was at school and a teacher came into my ICT class. They took me out of the room and I was confused and wondered what was going on. My sister was there too, but she wasn’t saying much.
“When I got home, Dad’s brother and wife were there with my cousin and that’s when mum sat me down and told me my Dad had died.”
Although Josh remembers feeling sad, Liz said:
“At first Josh was in shock and didn’t seem to understand what he’d been told. It wasn’t until a few hours later, when his uncle gave him a photo album that belonged to his Dad that it really sunk in. That’s when he broke down.
“Josh returned to school and seemed to adjust to life without his Dad, but then 3 months later John’s death really started to affect him and he was struggling to cope. Some songs that were played in assembly would upset him and he was also being bullied. Children would say mean things about Daddy, and Josh would lash out.”
As well as holding onto a lot of anger, Josh was struggling with feelings of guilt over his dad’s death and had also started to worry that his mum too, would die.
It was around this time, that Josh’s school referred the family to Buckinghamshire based bereavement charity, Child Bereavement UK and they met with Bereavement Support Practitioner, Christine on a fortnightly basis.
During their sessions Christine helped Josh to realise that he wasn’t to blame for his dad’s death and that to a certain extent, he could control his angry reactions towards classmates when they made comments about his dad. They also did activities that encouraged Josh to share his feelings, which culminated in him writing a poem that he then read out during an assembly at school.
“I was terrified just before, but afterwards people said things like ‘Great story, well done!’ and ‘We didn’t realise how much we were hurting you.’ I felt better.”
After a couple of individual support sessions, it was suggested that the mother and son attend Child Bereavement UK’s Family Support Group. These groups, for children aged 4-11 years old and their parent or carer, offer opportunities to meet with other families and for the children to express their feelings through facilitated play and creative activities.
During the first session, the children took part in felt-making, choosing colours that reminded them of their special person. Josh happily shares memories of his dad and how he came to select his colours.
“We did everything together. We loved going on holidays to the beach and I went round his house every weekend. He was a very kind person and he’d spoil me.
“We’d go to the skate park and would build things out of Lego. We used to love watching football and going out for meals together too. Every time there was a motorbike or car event, we’d go to it and sometimes I’d help him at work, fixing lorries, motorbikes and cars.
“When we made the felt, I chose red for his car; he loved his car, yellow for the beach, black for his cat, brown for his dog and blue for his football team, Chelsea. The felt is on my bedroom wall that is packed with things that remind me of my dad. I have his clock, a plaque that nanny got me and lots of photos. Lots isn’t even the word.”
Liz said of the support received by Child Bereavement UK:
“We find it helps a lot. Josh finds it really easy to talk to Christine, the Bereavement Support Practitioner. He always seems to come out with something that I didn’t know. She get things out of him that he wouldn’t normally talk about and he really likes her. Christine has a sense of humour that Josh really responds to.
“In a way, the support is for me too. Child Bereavement UK always encourage me to take part in the activities and to talk about how I feel. In the Family Support Groups, the parents go off to a separate room and it’s good to talk to others in a similar situation.”
Notes for Editors
Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement. Every year we train more than 8,000 professionals, helping them to better understand and meet the needs of bereaved families.
Press Enquiries: Ruth Sanger
Tel: 01494 568 932