Kate Wells is Lead for Emotional Support and Social Care at our hospice. Today is National Grief Awareness Day so she wanted to share some resources for supporting children and young people through bereavement and opening up important conversations about grief, death and dying.
1 in 29 5-16 year olds has been bereaved of a parent or sibling – That’s a child in every average class. Many more have been bereaved of a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend
Many of our patients have children in their lives in one way or another
Many of our staff and volunteers do too. Given the above statistic, it’s highly likely we will each know of a child who has recently been bereaved.
With an often overwhelming amount of information out there on how to support them, it can be hard to find the right way to offer support. And every child and young person is different! Adjusting to the new normal of COVID-19, also still continues to be a stressful, fatiguing and worrying time for children and young people.
So how do we have conversations with children and young people about grief, death and dying? How do we support them when they have big worries and anxieties?
Books and toys are great ways for children and their adults to understand more about what they’re feeling, and to share their own stories and emotions. Hopefully, these suggestions will be helpful in either your work or home environments.
Also called trouble dolls; in Spanish, Muñeca quitapena are small, handmade dolls that originate from Guatemala.
According to legend, Guatemalan children tell their worries to the Worry Dolls, placing them under their pillow when they go to bed at night. By morning the dolls have gifted them with the wisdom and knowledge to eliminate their worries.
My Tip: if the worry is still there in the morning, it’s too big for the doll, and needs to be shared with a ‘big person’ (adult)!
When a worrying or troubling thought comes into a child’s mind they can write it down, or draw a picture, and feed it to their monster or puppet.
Children Ages 3-12:
If All the World Were – A moving picture book about a young girl’s love for her granddad and how she copes when he dies.
The Invisible String – The Invisible String is the perfect picture book for children coping with all kinds of separation anxiety, loss, and grief. It has a lovely message for all ages, not just children!
The Memory Tree – A beautiful and heartfelt picture book to help children celebrate the memories left behind when a loved one dies.
Feelings: Inside My Heart and In My Head – Explore a world of emotions with this picture book. Each and every feeling comes to life to help us understand the emotions we experience.
Young people 12 & up:
Lost – Eve Ainsworth’s Lost explores the heart-breaking and confusing time that grief is for children and adults.
Weird is Normal, when teenagers grieve – Young people grieve differently from adults and often get lost in the shuffle after the death of a loved one. This book was written by a young adult whose parent had died and is great at letting young people know that they’re not alone.
Jigsaw (South East) – Provides information, advice and guidance to help support bereaved children and young people, and those facing the death of a loved one. Jigsaw supports families across Surrey, West Sussex and the surrounding areas
Winston’s Wish – Offers specific guidance on supporting children and young people who have been bereaved during lockdown and offers great advice for non-COVID-19 bereavement too
For young people, Winston’s Wish has a separate website which is fantastic – https://help2makesense.org/