What Can You Do... in your community? 2018
"I would love to see death, dying and bereavement on the school curriculum" - Ian Leech, St Giles Hospice, Dying Matters Launch 2018
The Childhood Bereavement Network estimates that around one in 29 school-age children have been bereaved of a parent or sibling – that’s roughly one per class. A parent dies every 22 minutes in the UK, and over 100 children and young people are bereaved of a parent every day (1). Up to 70% of primary schools have at least one recently bereaved pupil on their roll (3).
Many bereaved children get excellent support in school, but others struggle to get the help they need. Adults and peers often worry about what to say or about making things worse, but that just leaves young people alone with their grief.
I didn’t go to school for a few days but then I thought I should try and get back into the routine. But it wasn’t really helpful because no-one at school really acknowledged how I was feeling and they weren’t as caring as I thought they would be or as they should be.
I was happy with the arrangement that I had with the teachers and the headmaster. He was really helpful and every time he saw me in the playground or saw me around the school he used to ask me how I’m doing.
Schools which have experienced a death in the school community often wish they had been better prepared. Pastoral support needs to be proactive and flexible, to support children coming back to school after a bereavement. They might need help managing overwhelming feelings, adults to keep an eye out for bullying, and support around further transitions such as changing class or going up to secondary school. Training can help staff understand how they might help a pupil who has been bereaved, and when and where to find extra support.
Given the numbers of children who will experience bereavement during childhood, there is a strong case for them to learn about common feelings and reactions to loss, coping strategies, and where to seek help. This could improve peer support between children, reducing the isolation – and outright bullying – which some experience following a bereavement, and helping children to find help for themselves or their friends.
It’s kind of ironic because it’s the only thing that’s guaranteed in life, but they won’t teach you about it.
- Is your local school aware of the support available from local and national services for bereaved children? Check support at www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk
- If you are a parent, governor or teacher, have you thought about how loss and bereavement can be covered in the curriculum? Find resources at http://www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk/help-around-a-death/what-you-can-do/schools-professionals.aspx
(2) Holland, J (1993) ‘Childhood bereavement in Humberside primary schools’, Educational Research 35 (3).
Quotes from young people in Childhood Bereavement Network Video Talkshops project.
In the workplace
Grief starts at diagnosis. The understanding and support that you or a colleague will need should start now.
Here are some things to consider when working with a bereaved colleague:
- Welcome the person back to the workplace if they have been away on bereavement leave
- Express your sympathy in a simple way. For example “I am sorry to hear about your loss”
- Don’t ignore the person who is bereaved. It is ok to feel uncomfortable but don’t let this stop you from making contact. You can always say “I’m not sure what to say but I would like you to know that I am thinking of you”
- Keep including the person in activities even if they refuse many times. If you continue to include the person they can then make a decision themselves about whether or not they wish to be involved
- Check with the person if there is something practical that you could do for them. For example going for a coffee or a walk or doing some shopping for them
In local hospices
- offering practical support and companionship through innovative schemes that hospices run in local communities
- taking a leadership role as a trustee and making sure the charity is running well and is doing what it was set up to do (our Governance support pages give more information about the role and responsibilities of trustees)
- working within a hospice on the wards or in day hospice services
- providing administrative help
- supporting retail activities and helping with the running of a busy shop - for example, working on the tills and creating displays
- helping out at fundraising events
- offering specialist skills such as hairdressing, complementary therapies or web-editing
Volunteers are an integral part of the team and receive appropriate training, support and development.
Most hospices can find opportunities for younger people to volunteer and for working people who can offer a few hours, on a regular basis. Some employers encourage their employees to volunteer, as an individual or as part of a team challenge which can be great for team building and improving staff morale. Schools and colleges can help hospices too
How to get involved:
If you want to volunteer, contact your local hospice and ask for the person responsible for recruiting volunteers. Before you can start volunteering, the hospice will want to:
- meet you to find out about your interests and skills
- match your skills and interests with suitable roles
- offer you an appropriate induction or training
- arrange a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check if your volunteer role will involve direct contact with patients
You can read some hospice volunteer stories on the Hospice UK website here
In other places
Bereavement can happen to anyone and at anytime, even places you may not think of despite being there on a frequent basis. It is likely that someone you know or see regularly outside of work, family or immediate friendship groups is going through some stage of grief.
Think about the places you may go to often. Pubs, places of worship, community groups, clubs, the gym.
Things you can do
- encourage support groups and discussions - perhaps start one in your local area
- suggest of plan a Death Cafe
- be aware of other cultures and customs