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Supporting children and young people

“Children are amazing; they bounce back, and we now know that they can be resilient. However, they are like adults in that their resilience cannot grow without support.” Julia Samuel 2017.

Every child works through loss in their own unique way. Sadly, there is no magic wand that can make the process shorter or necessarily easier. But this information might be able to give you an understanding of supporting children during this difficult time.

Everyone processes grief differently, including children. If you are also grieving, it is important that you are supported. The passing of someone close to you can be a difficult and painful time, it’s important to consider your wellbeing when supporting your child.

It has been researched that children and babies experience a sense of loss when the main care giver is no longer there. Although every child’s development is different, for very young children (pre-school) the understanding of the permanence of death is quite abstract. For primary aged children, they begin to understand the irreversibility of death and teenagers often find it difficult when also coping with adolescence.

In the beginning, children may need extra care and attention from those around them. A sudden death or suicide might mean that there wasn’t a period to say goodbye and this could harbour anger with the person who has left them over things they did or did not say and do. The loss of someone close can turn normal life upside down, but this can be eased if everyone in the family can support one another when the grief is all consuming.

Children will need to know they are loved. What else is needed depends on how the child responds; their relationship with the person and the circumstances of the loss. It is normal to be uncertain of what to do. But you know your child better than anyone and grief is a normal response. Provided with love and support from family and friends many children do not need professional support, but some do. If you have any questions or seek support and guidance, then call Liverpool Bereavement Service on: 0151 236 3932.

Talking

During a bereavement sharing and talking about the person can be important. Naturally, we want to protect children, but children need information that is appropriate and truthful. Where the truth is absent children may fill in the gaps using their own imagination which could be more damaging.

You know your child better than anyone and you know what language is age appropriate for the child. It often helps if another family member or friend is there to support you. Children can be very literal and using terms like ‘gone to sleep’ or ‘went away’ can be confusing and misleading to a child. Avoid ambiguity and allow them to process the information. They might have questions, which will guide and direct the conversation and what information they need to fill the gaps in their knowledge. If they repeat the same question to assimilate what is happening, be careful to repeat the same answer to avoid any confusion. Be careful not to overload with information all at once, they will need time to process the news.

Children can respond to atmosphere and will be aware that something is going on, it is important to include them and talk to them. Even talking to children about the saddest of truths is better than clouding the truth leaving the child confused.

Time

A loss may remain with people for life but through support and acceptance you and those around you can learn to live with the loss. There is uncertainty around dealing with a loss of a loved one and often we allow behaviour that wouldn’t normally be acceptable, and this is understandable. There is a general guide that it is best to stick to regular routines as much as possible. The familiar boundaries and routine will make the child feel secure.

Grief can revisit children as they are older as the feelings they had when they were younger change as they grow through life. This experience of grief revisiting is often connected to life events and holiday periods.

Being Sad

Sharing your feelings and grief is good, as it models how to grieve to your children. Children learn how to grieve by observing those around them.

You have your own grief and some days this can consume everything. If you can share your grief and get support from friends and family or professional support this will give you the space to grieve and be able to have some control when grieving with your children.

Looking after you

Looking after yourself and your wellbeing is essential to look after and support your family.

Managing and coping with your life, family and grief can be exhausting. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s protecting you and your family.

If you have any questions or seek support and guidance call Liverpool Bereavement Service on: 0151 236 3932.

Will it help if my child saw a counsellor?

In the early days of grief, counselling is usually not what people and children need. Initially children often need the support and love from the adults they know and trust. As time passes the needs of the children may change and some find speaking to a bereavement counsellor supportive.

If you want to seek advice from a child bereavement counsellor or make a referral, please call Liverpool Bereavement Services on: 0151 236 3932.

Tips / Self help

Nearly everyone will experience grief at some point in their life and this process can be difficult and stressful. If you are experiencing grief then it is likely you are experiencing many different emotions, thoughts, feelings and physical reactions. Grief can take time to process your emotions and adjusting to the change in your life.

There are stages of bereavement and you might experience all of them, some or even none. Everyone copes differently in these situations. Some people experience shock when coming to terms with the change in your life. Some people cry in company some people cry alone. Some people seem to cope, some people don’t. There may be barriers in your grieving process and this can make grief more difficult to process.

Grief can be harder depending on the circumstances, your life experiences and your relationship with the person. Having support from friends and family can be really helpful and they might be able to support you getting a more structured lifestyle as this might help you cope.

Making use of your time

When you experience grief you might realise your motivation to do things, even things you enjoy decreases. You might decrease doing activities you previously enjoyed or even stop them.

By using a diary to plan your weeks this can plan you doing things you want to do and lift your mood. Returning to a routine can give structure and meaning back into your life. When completing the diary complete things you have to do like cooking, cleaning, walking the dog. Then you will know what time is left for activities you want to introduce of re-introduce into your life like coffee with friends. Remember to pace yourself and make sure there is time for you to relax.

Socialising

Social contact and seeing friends and family may make you feel less alone, even though you may not feel it at times. Good relationships with friends and family can be a really good way to help you cope and move through grief. It can be helpful to talk through your situation with friends and family. They might have been through similar situations and have advice.

Exercise

Exercise can improve your mood, your health and your wellbeing to tackle difficult situations. Exercise can even help you sleep. You don’t need to push yourself too hard to enjoy the wellbeing of a walk.

Sleep

Try to plan sleep and relaxation into your day. You may have difficulty sleeping since the bereavement and by planning sleep may help you maintain a regular sleep pattern.

Grief is complex and different for everyone and there is no indicator to how your grief will manifest. As painful as it is, it is important to grieve properly to be able to overcome the pain.

If you would like to talk to someone about your grief who is impartial then call Liverpool Bereavement Service on 0151 236 3932.

Confidentiality & Disclosure

You might be anxious about talking to a counsellor for the first time. At Liverpool Bereavement Service we understand this and all counsellors are trained to listen to you. We are not here to give advice or pass judgement.

All counsellors and volunteers follow the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) ethical framework Respecting your privacy and confidentiality are basic requirements within our code of practice.

All counsellors receive regular supervision so we can ensure good practice and high standards in counselling.

Counselling is an opportunity to talk about your worries, concerns and anxieties in a confidential setting with someone who is trained to listen to you and explore your situation. It is up to you what you will talk about.

We will protect your confidentiality and privacy by:

  • Protecting your information and keeping it for the designated time period only
  • Informing you how we use your personal data and information
  • Informing you about any limitations of privacy or confidentiality during initial assessment
  • Ensuring that disclosure of personally identifiable information is given with your consent or if there is a legally and ethically recognised reason

It is our duty to make exceptions to confidentiality rules and inform the relevant authorities arise in the following circumstances: That you intend to harm yourself or another person; There are concerns regarding the safety of a child; Any intention to commit, or knowledge of, any act of terrorism; Any knowledge or concerns of, money laundering.

To speak to someone at Liverpool Bereavement or to make a referral call: 0151 236 3932

Resources

Respecting client privacy and confidentiality are basic requirements for keeping trust and respect for the client’s well-being. Disclosure may only be authorised by the client or the law.

Useful links

NHS information on Coping with Bereavement

The Samaritans have a 24 hour help line if you need support out of hours.

Books

Books for Children under the Age of 5

Goodbye Mouse by Robbie H. Harris (ISBN: 978-0689871344)

I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas (ISBN: 978-0764117640)

When Uncle Bob Died by Lisa Koppoer (ISBN: 978-1903285084)

Dear Grandma Bunny by Dick Bruna (ISBN: 978-1903285084)

Missing Mummy by Rebecca Cobb (ISBN: 978-0-230-74951-1)

Books for Children aged 5 - 8

A Birthday Present for Daniel: A Child's Story of Loss by Juliet Cassuto Rothman (ISBN: 978-1573929462)

Always and Forever by Alan Durant (ISBN: 978-0552548779)

Badger's Parting Gift by Susan Varley (ISBN: 978-0006643173)

Drop Dead by Babette Cole (ISBN: 978-0099659112)

Flamingo Dream by Donna Jo Napoli (ISBN: 978-0688167967)

Books for Children Aged 9 - 12

Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between by Bryan Mellonie (ISBN: 978-1855617605)

Death: What's Happening? by Karen Bryant-Mole (ISBN: 978-07502137901994)

The Cat Mummy by Jacueline Wilson (ISBN: 978-0440864165)

The Ghost of Uncle Arvie by Sharon Creech (ISBN: 978-0333656327)

The Mountains of Tibet by Mordicai Gerstein (ISBN: 978-1782850472)

Books for Young People Aged 13 - 16

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood (ISBN: 978-0330488907)

Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson (ISBN: 978-0440867593)

Dustbin Baby by Jacqueline Wilson (ISBN: 978-0552547963)

Straight Talk about Death for Teenager: How to Cope with Losing Someone you Love by Earl A. Grollman (ISBN: 978-0807025017)

The Charlie Barber Treatment by Carole Lloyd (ISBN: 978-0744554571)

Books for Adults Supporting a Bereaved Child

A Child's Grief: Supporting a child when someone in their family has died by Julie Stokes, Diana Crossley, Katrina Alilovic & Di Stubbs (ISBN: 978-0-9559539-0-3)

Grief in Children: A Handbook for Adults by Atle Dyregov (ISBN: 978-1843106500)

Talking about Death: A Dialogue Between Parent and Chil by Earl A. Grollman (ISBN: 978-0807023631)

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