The sad news of ‘Bowelbabe’ Dame Deborah James’ death may prompt us to think about our feelings or concerns about grief and bereavement.
It can be hard to know how to talk to children and young people about death, and while each person’s experience is unique, Winston’s Wish, the UK’s first childhood bereavement charity, has compiled six tips on how to support children and young people after the death of someone important.
- Don’t shy away from asking children and young people how they’re feeling and what is going on inside them. Not knowing how to respond to hearing difficult emotions can provoke anxiety for adults, but it’s okay not to know what to say and to listen. We often hear from children that they are worried about telling an adult about their feelings in case they upset the person, so starting the conversation can help children know it is okay to share.
- Don’t be surprised if each time you ask a child or young person how they’re feeling following a death, their response is different. Bereavement can invite many feelings to the surface anytime, from sadness, anger and confusion to laughing and joking. Younger children often ‘puddle jump’ in and out of different feelings quickly, so one moment they might be very upset, and the next wanting to watch their favourite TV show.
- Children and young people may ask questions that feel difficult to answer. Sometimes all children need to hear is, ‘I’m feeling sad too/its normal to be sad’.
- Worlds are often turned upside down after a bereavement, and things can be extremely difficult. It can be helpful to aim to maintain a level of normality in the child or young person’s life; this could be something simple like a regular night-time routine which could help them feel safe and secure.
- Let the child or young person know how you’re feeling too. Children look to adults to learn how to express their emotions and feelings, and putting them into words may help a child further understand their feelings and know that it’s okay not to be okay.
- Planning or attending activities in memory of their loved one can create a space to help the young person explore and revisit their memories.
If you are supporting a bereaved child or young person struggling with their grief, please call Freephone Helpline team; they will be able to offer guidance, information, and support.