Loss

This page is information on Loss which isn’t always bereavement

Bereavement
Pet Bereavement
Children and Bereavement

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Bereavement

Bereavement is a distressing but sadly common experience. How we deal with loss is also culturally based as well as family and individually.  Sooner or later most of us will suffer the death of someone we love. Yet in our everyday life we think and talk about death very little, perhaps because we encounter it less often than our grandparents did. For them, the death of a brother or sister, friend or relative, was a common experience in their childhood or teenage years. For us, these losses usually happen later in life. WW1 also changed the way British culture dealt with loss and mourning which still influences us to this day. So we do not have much of a chance either to learn about grieving – how it feels, what are the right things to do, what is ‘normal’ – or to come to terms with it. In spite of this, we have to cope when we are finally faced with the death of someone we love. The age old tale of grief fading over time is not true. The grief remains the same, you and your life grow around the grief, adapting, re shaping and re evolving.

Help

  • Occasionally, sleepless nights may go on for so long as to become a serious problem. Talking therapy can help and maybe you should see your GP too.

 

  • If someone is unable to resolve their grief, seeing a therapist is enabling. For some, it will be enough to meet people and talk in a special group or on their own for a while.

 

  • Bereavement turns our world upside-down and is one of the most painful experiences we endure. It can be strange, terrible and overwhelming. In spite of this, it is a part of life that we all go through and usually does not require medical attention.

 

  • For those people who will lose someone through a terminal illness, coming to terms with what is about to happen may help. Also for those with a terminal diagnosis.

 

  • For those who do run into trouble, therapy is available.

 

Grieving

We grieve after any sort of loss, but most powerfully after the death of someone we love. It is not just one feeling, but a whole succession of feelings, which take a while to get through and which cannot be hurried.

We most often grieve for someone that we have known for some time. However, it is clear that people who have had stillbirths or miscarriages, or who have lost very young babies, grieve in the same way and need the same sort of care and consideration.

In the few hours or days following the death of a close relative or friend, most people feel simply stunned, as though they cannot believe it has actually happened. They may feel like this even if the death has been expected.

This sense of emotional numbness can be a help in getting through all the important practical arrangements that have to be made, such as getting in touch with relatives and organising the funeral. However, this feeling of unreality may become a problem if it goes on too long. Seeing the body of the dead person may, for some, be an important way of beginning to overcome this.

Similarly, for many people, the funeral or memorial service is an occasion when the reality of what has happened really starts to sink in. It may be distressing to see the body or attend the funeral, but these are ways of saying goodbye to those we love. At the time, these things may seem too painful to go through and so are not done. However, this can lead to a sense of deep regret in future years.

Soon though, this numbness disappears and may be replaced by a dreadful sense of agitation, of pining or yearning for the dead person. There is a feeling of wanting somehow to find them, even though this is clearly impossible. This makes it difficult to relax or concentrate and it may be difficult to sleep properly. Dreams can be very upsetting.

Some people feel that they ‘see’ their loved one everywhere they go – in the street, the park, around the house, anywhere they had spent time together. People often feel very angry at this time – towards doctors and nurses who did not prevent the death, towards friends and relatives who did not do enough, or even towards the person who has, by dying, left them.

Another common feeling is guilt. People find themselves going over in their minds all the things they would have liked to have said or done. They may even consider what they could have done differently that might have prevented the death. Of course, death is usually beyond anyone’s control and a bereaved person may need to be reminded of this. Some people may feel guilty if they feel relieved that their loved one has died after a painful or distressing illness. This feeling of relief is natural, understandable and very common.

This state of agitation is usually strongest about two weeks after the death, but is soon followed by times of quiet sadness or depression, withdrawal and silence. These sudden changes of emotion can be confusing to friends or relatives, but are part of the normal process of grief.

Although the agitation lessens, the periods of depression become more frequent and reach their peak between four and six weeks later. Spasms of grief can occur at any time, sparked off by people, places or things that bring back memories of the dead person.

Other people may find it difficult to understand or be embarrassed when the bereaved person suddenly bursts into tears for no obvious reason. At this stage it may be tempting to keep away from other people who do not fully understand or share the grief. However, avoiding others can store up trouble for the future, and it is usually best to start to return to one’s normal activities after a couple of weeks or so.

During this time, it may appear to others as though the bereaved person is spending a lot of time just sitting, doing nothing. In fact, they are usually thinking about the person they have lost, going over again and again both the good times and the bad times they had together. This is a quiet, but essential part of coming to terms with the death.

As time passes, the fierce pain of early bereavement begins to fade. The depression lessens and it is possible to think about other things and even to look again to the future. However, the sense of having lost a part of oneself never goes away entirely. For bereaved partners there are constantreminders of their new singleness, in seeing other couples together and from the deluge of media images of happy families. After some time it is possible to feel whole again, even though a part is missing. Even so, years later you may sometimes find yourself talking as though he or she were still here with you.

These various stages of mourning often overlap and show themselves in different ways in different people. Most recover from a major bereavement within one or two years. The final phase of grieving is a letting-go of the person who has died and the start of a new sort of life. The depression clears completely, sleep improves and energy returns to normal. Sexual feelings may have vanished for some time, but now return – this is quite normal and nothing to be ashamed of.

Having said all this, there is no ‘standard’ way of grieving. We are all individuals and have our own particular ways of grieving.

In addition, people from different cultures deal with death in their own distinctive ways. Over the centuries, people in different parts of the world have worked out their own ceremonies for coping with death. In some communities death is seen as just one step in the continuous cycle of life and death rather than as a ‘full stop’. The rituals and ceremonies of mourning may be very public and demonstrative, or private and quiet. In some cultures the period of mourning is fixed, in others not. The feelings experienced by bereaved people in different cultures may be similar, but their ways of expressing them are very different.

Bereavement following a suicide

It can be particularly hard to deal with the death by suicide of someone you know. As well as the usual feelings of bereavement, you may have a number of conflicting emotions.

You may feel:

  • Angry with the person for taking their own life.
  • Rejected by what they have done.
  • Confused as to why they did it.
  • Guilty – most people take their own life as an act of desperation. How could you not have noticed how they were feeling?
  • Guilty for not having been able to stop their death. You may go over in your mind the times you spent with them and ask yourself if you could have prevented it. Of course, even had you managed to prevent it, there could well have been further attempts which you could not have stopped.
  • Worried about whether they suffered.
  • Glad that they no longer have to endure their distress.
  • Relieved that you no longer have to be there to support them or deal with their suicidal thoughts and urges.
  • Ashamed by what they did – particularly if your culture or religion sees suicide as sinful or disgraceful.
  • Reluctant to talk to other people about it because:
    • the stigma of suicide in your culture;
    • you feel that other people are more interested in the drama of the situation rather than your feelings or the person who has died.
  • Worried about thoughts of suicide that you may have had yourself.
  • Isolated – it can help to talk to other people who have lost a loved one through suicide.

An autopsy is usually done after any unexpected death. An inquest will usually follow. Evidence is presented to the Coroner at a court hearing to try to find out what exactly happened. You may find it helpful to come to the inquest – but if you decide not to, you can still get a full report of the inquest from the Coroner’s Office (there is no fee for this).

How can friends and relatives help

  • You can help by spending time with the person who has been bereaved. More than words comfort, they need to know that you will be with them during this time of pain and distress. A sympathetic arm around the shoulders will express care and support when words are not enough.

 

  • It is important that, if they want to, bereaved people can cry with somebody and talk about their feelings of pain and distress without being told to pull themselves together. In time, they will come to terms with it, but first they need to talk and to cry.

 

  • Others may find it hard to understand why the bereaved person has to keep talking about the same things again and again, but this is part of the process of resolving grief and should be encouraged. If you don’t know what to say, or don’t even know whether to talk about it or not, be honest and say so. This gives the bereaved person a chance to tell you what he or she wants. People often avoid mentioning the name of the person who has died for fear that it will be upsetting. However, to the bereaved person it may seem as though others have forgotten their loss, adding a sense of isolation to their painful feelings of grief.

 

  • Remember that festive occasions and anniversaries (not only of the death, but also birthdays and weddings) are particularly painful times. Friends and relatives can make a special effort to be around.

 

  • Practical help with cleaning, shopping or looking after children can ease the burden of being alone. Elderly bereaved partners may need help with the chores that the deceased partner used to handle – coping with bills, cooking, housework, getting the car serviced and so on.

 

  • It is important to allow people enough time to grieve. Some can seem to get over the loss quickly, but others take longer. So don’t expect too much too soon from a bereaved relative or friend – they need the time to grieve properly, and this will help to avoid problems in the future.

Grief that is unresolved

There are people who seem hardly to grieve at all. They do not cry at the funeral, avoid any mention of their loss and return to their normal life remarkably quickly. This is their normal way of dealing with loss and no harm results, but others may suffer from strange physical symptoms or repeated spells of depression over the following years. Some may not have the opportunity to grieve properly. The heavy demands of looking after a family or business may mean that there just isn’t the time.

Sometimes the problem is that the loss is not seen as a ‘proper’ bereavement. This happens often, but by no means always, to those who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth, or even an abortion. Again, frequent periods of depression may follow.

Some may start to grieve, but get stuck. The early sense of shock and disbelief just goes on and on. Years may pass and still the sufferer finds it hard to believe that the person they loved is dead. Others may carry on being unable to think of anything else, often making the room of the dead person into a kind of shrine to their memory.

Occasionally, the depression that occurs with every bereavement may deepen to the extent that food and drink are refused and thoughts of suicide arise.

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Pet Bereavement

For many pet owners, the loss of their companion animal is a painful experience. It marks the end of a partnership that may have yielded many benefits and shared experiences, such as friendship, unconditional love, physical activity, social contact and in the case of animal assisted partnerships, support with everyday tasks and even freedom of movement. Also some owners wont have realised their reliance on that companion through depression, hard times or illness. Research shows that the presence of a pet is often beneficial.  These qualities enhance the life of the pet owner and often result in a strong attachment to the pet. When this attachment is severed, either through the death of the pet or through another form of enforced separation, the loss can impact on many aspects of the pet owner’s life, and be followed by a period of grieving.

The grieving process

The grieving process varies from individual to individual and even for the same individual, may be different for different pets. Whatever the nature of the grieving process, it is a normal and appropriate response to the loss of a loved companion. For some people, the loss of their pet is marked by sadness and tears, which may be transient or last for several days. Other symptoms such as loss of appetite, fatigue, headaches and sleeplessness may also be present. For others, it may feel as if they have lost a member of their family and their grief may have a similar pattern to that following a human bereavement, which may include all or some of the following stages of grief.

The initial reaction may be one of shock and disbelief, where perception is altered and it may be difficult for the person to comprehend what is happening, even if the death or loss was expected. This may be followed by a period of sadness and grief, when events leading up to the loss are relived and the full pain of the loss is experienced, sometimes resulting in physical pains in the body of the pet owner. The need to apportion blame is also common and anger may be directed at others for either their part in the loss or for their reaction to it. This anger may be interspersed with a deep yearning and longing to see the pet again and feel their presence. It is also possible for bereaved pet owners to experience depression, feeling a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, that life is not worth living. There may also be an overwhelming sense of responsibility and guilt, particularly when an animal has been involved in an accident or a decision has been taken to have  a pet put down. In the case of euthanasia, a person may be left with a lot of self-questioning and recrimination as to whether it was the right decision at the right time. To avoid or minimise these recriminations it is important that the decision to euthanase is an informed one, made by the owner, taking into account the opinion of the vet. After a time, the reality of the loss may be more acceptable to the person who is able to reflect on happy memories shared with their pet without being overwhelmed with sadness and despair. An understanding of this whole process and the normality of grieving for a pet as well as allowing time to grieve, may all ease the pain.

A person grieving for a much loved pet may experience all these phases or only some and they tend to overlap. The feelings will pass over time, but the length of time may vary from a few days or weeks to several or many months. The intensity is also affected by several factors. These include the nature of the attachment, the length of pet ownership, the circumstances surrounding the loss of the pet, and the emotional and practical support that is available to the grieving pet owner. The loss of a long standing partnership or of a companion animal that was rescued or raised as an orphan, or had some kind of link with a person that has died, may result in an intense grief lasting several months.

Aftercare of the body

The practical support available to the bereaved pet owner may influence the course of their grief. There are several options regarding the disposal of the pet’s body, and making an appropriate decision that offers a dignified, respectful ending to a pet’s life can bring a lot of comfort to the pet owner. The two main options are cremation and burial. Cremation is probably the most common option and the two main types are communal cremation and individual cremation. In communal cremation, the pet’s body is cremated with several other pets, and is usually organised through the vet’s normal pet crematorium at a minimal charge. For owners wanting a more personalised approach, individual cremation is available where the pet is cremated on its own and the ashes scattered by the crematorium or returned to the owner. Returned ashes can be scattered, buried or kept in the house. This is a more expensive option but it can bring great comfort to the grieving pet owner.
Burial can be the preferred option for some pet owners. No planning, notification or formal marking is necessary for a home burial, but it is advisable to work with a depth of more than 1m and a distance of 3m away from a water source, and It can be helpful to be able to visit the grave at any time. Pet cemeteries are particularly useful for those owners who would like to bury their pet but do not have the facilities to do so at home. This is a more expensive burial option, but the service offered is usually very personal and sympathetic. For those people requesting burial for their pet, there is also the personalised option of collection of the pet’s body in a pet coffin. The burial may also be a natural time to hold a funeral, and the ceremony offers an opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful times shared with the pet as well as the pain of the loss. This can be particularly helpful to children.

Many pet owners find comfort in honouring their pet’s memory in a tangible way that is long-lasting. Options here include memorial tributes such as gravestone and plaques, the planting of a favourite tree or shrub, making a donation to a charity or a field of medical research, keeping collars or leads and making a photograph album or journal with favourite pictures and stories about the pet.

A new partnership

At various points during the grieving process the question of whether or not to take on another animal may want addressing. There are good reasons to take on another animal and there are good reasons for people not wanting to take on another animal. All are valid and need to be respected, your decision is unique to you.  A useful guideline as to whether to acquire a another animal, is when a person feels able to reflect on previous happy times without being overwhelmed by the pain of the loss and ultimately feels comfortable with the possibility of taking on another pet. It is important not to expect the new animal to be like the old one or to bond with the new animal right away. Getting a new pet is not a question of replacing a previous pet, but rather one of reinvesting ones love as a tribute to the love and companionship that was shared with the previous pet.

Support for the pet owner

Grieving for a much loved pet is a normal process. Despite this, there is a general tendency on the part of the public and even well-meaning friends to minimise the extent of the pain and dismiss the grief with statements such as “it was only a pet”. This, together with an expectation for pet owners to quickly readjust to their lives without their pet, may result in many pet owners feeling isolated and lacking emotional support. Recognising pet loss as a legitimate form of grief and the gap in available services, several avenues of support for bereaved pet owners have opened up over the past few years. The fact that it is also a child’s first experience of death is also generally over looked. How a pet’s death is handled in the family and around that child may well affect a persons attitude, experience and ability to cope when they are faced with a family member, friends or partner’s death.

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Children and Bereavement

Children

Shock

This is for many young people and children the first response they experience when learning that someone close has died. The way in which shock is demonstrated by the newly bereaved child or young person again varies and may not be communicated in the same way as bereaved peers or siblings.

Some children or young people might laugh upon being told of the death. This response should not be viewed as disrespectful or inappropriate because it is a reflex reaction over which the child or young person has no conscious control. Laughter originating from shock is indicative that the child or young person’s brain is momentarily protecting them from the reality of the death.

It is not uncommon to hear a child or young person in this situation ask the person breaking the bad news to them if they are joking. On an intellectual level the child or young person knows that what is being told them is not a joke but on an emotional level the ability to process this fact is extremely difficult. The laughter will cease when the rational mind has processed that the person has died.

Some children and young people might immediately start tidying up, putting away toys, returning to homework, clearing away plates, etc. This action can appear quite robotic as if the child or young person has switched on to auto pilot. The commencing of mundane tasks such as tidying things away is indicative of the child or young person struggling to process the information and trying to “carry on as normal” in the hope that the news just given to them might not be true.

Shock, like grief, is an individual response and can manifest in many ways. Some children and young people might express a difficulty in verbally acknowledging what has just been said, others might start to sob uncontrollably, others might laugh and some might start putting things away and clearing up. Shock is a protective state, it allows the individual time to process bad news in the manner that best suits them and acts as a temporary buffer before reality sinks in.

Try not to be alarmed if the child or young person’s response seems inappropriate, shock, as mentioned manifests itself in different ways.

How Can You Help?

• Try not to appear visibly alarmed if a child or young person’s response seems inappropriate to you. Remember shock can manifest in many different ways.
• Reassure the child or young person that any feelings of numbness and disbelief that they are experiencing and the inability to accept that someone close has died is normal.
• When explaining to a child or young person that someone has died try to keep your language clear and simple. Tell them the truth in a way that they can understand and is appropriate to their level of comprehension.
• Reassure the child or young person that you are there for them and that you will listen to them and answer their questions.

Denial

This is another response that you might observe in bereaved children and young people. Denial manifests so that the child or young person does not have to accept or believe that their loved one has died. Denial as a response to bereavement can be witnessed when a child or young person does not want to leave a certain place like home or a hospital ward for fear of leaving the person who has died behind.

A child might be heard saying that they don’t want to stay at nanny’s house in case mummy comes home. Other children and young people who have been bereaved might adopt certain behaviours such as obsessively tidying their room or furiously brushing their teeth to impress the deceased person when they return.

Searching can be another form which denial can take. For example some bereaved children and young people might actively search for the deceased person as part of their belief that the person is not really dead. Searching varies depending on the age of the child or young person who has been bereaved. Therefore a child might be seen looking under beds and emptying toy boxes to check if the deceased person isn’t hiding there. Older children and young people might search local areas or places of work where the deceased frequented in a similar desire to find the person alive and well.

Denial can also be demonstrated by bereaved children and young people who do not want to attend school (please see section, Information for Schools) or go to bed for fear of missing the person who has died returning.

Denial as a response to bereavement is useful to the child or young person as it gives them time to pursue quests to relocate the person who has died and puts off the inevitability of accepting that their loved one will not be coming back.

How Can You Help?

• Acknowledge that bereaved children and young people will need time to process the death of someone close and that they may not appear to accept that the person has died.
• Talk openly to the child or young person. Let them know that they can talk about what has happened and won’t get in trouble for asking questions relating to the death.
• If your child or young person appears to be searching for the person who has died, gently explain to them, in language appropriate to their age and level of understanding that the person won’t be coming back.
• Respect the child or young person’s denial is a protective mechanism and should dissolve in time.

Anger

Anger as a response to bereavement is common amongst children and adults alike. However, unlike adults, bereaved children and young people, depending on their age and level of comprehension, can find it difficult to understand their emotions and articulate how they are feeling.

This inability to communicate their grief can prove highly frustrating to children and young people and this in turn can lead to anger. Children and young people can feel anger towards themselves for something they perceived that they did or did not do which they believe contributed to the death of their loved one.

They can also feel angry with people they feel did not do enough to prevent their loved one from dying. A child might be extremely angry towards the nurses who cared for his mother whilst she was dying believing that their care was inadequate or lacking in some way and that was why his mother died.

Quite common is the anger a child or young person feels towards the person who has died. This anger can be directed at the person who has died for not allowing the child or young person the time to say goodbye, it could be because the child or young person feels that they have been abandoned by the person dying. Anger can also be directed at the person who has died because their death has left the child or young person to deal with the strong emotions that grief entails by themselves.

Anger can manifest itself in various ways according to the child or young person’s understanding of death at the time of the bereavement. Younger children may have tantrums and become aggressive towards others; older children might become disruptive at school and get in to fights with other children.

A bereaved teenager might turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to placate the rage they feel or they might become involved in offending and become known to the police.

Anger is an understandable response to bereavement and it is something that the majority of children and young people will encounter as they grieve.

How Can You Help?

• If a child or young person’s anger is causing them to hurt themselves or others explain to them that it is OK to feel angry but not OK to hurt themselves or other people.
• Encourage the child or young person to vent their anger towards a pillow or to go for a run. Anything that will allow the child or young person to channel their anger in a safe way can be used.
• Reassure the child or young person that it is OK to feel anger towards the person who has died and that this is a natural response and not something they should feel guilty about.
• If the child or young person’s anger is directed towards you, try not to take it personally. Often children and young people will direct their anger at the person they feel closest too. By remaining constant and not getting upset by the child or young person’s anger you are reinforcing the fact that you will be there for them no matter what.

Bargaining

This particular response to bereavement is not peculiar to children and young people, bereaved adults too often plead for the return of their deceased loved one in exchange for a promise to act a certain way, abstain from certain behaviours, etc.

As the nature of grief is individual not all children and young people will experience the act of bargaining as a response to bereavement. Those children and young people that do will often beseech a deity or something that the child or young person sees as having the power to restore their loved one back to life.

Like some of their adult counterparts, the grieving child or young person will plead for the deity / higher power to give life to the deceased person in exchange for a pledge or behaviour that the child or young person believes will please them. For example, a child might be heard to bargain with God, “Please God, if you bring my sister back I promise I’ll be good for mummy and daddy”.

Bargaining is the child or young person’s desire to turn back the clock to the time when the deceased person was still alive. Bargaining can serve as a tool for distraction, distracting the young person or child from the pain of reality. The nature of bargaining can alter over time for instance the bereaved child or young person may begin by bargaining for the return of their loved one and then later this plea changes and the child bargains their life for the return of the person who has died to take their place.

Bargaining can offer the child or young person temporary respite from the pain of grieving.

How Can You Help?

• Gently explain to the child or young person that there is nothing that anyone can say or do that will bring the person who has died back.
• Provide the child or young person with the reassurance that they do not need to try and be perfect in order to bring the person who has died back.
• Understand that in spite of your reassurance some children and young people will continue to bargain as it can help them feel that they are being proactive in trying to bring the person who has died back.
• Remember that bargaining behaviour should disappear as the child or young person moves towards accepting the finality of death.

Guilt

Guilt can be seen as anger turned inwards towards the self. Bereaved children and young people are particularly vulnerable to feeling guilty for death of someone close. Children and young people can become convinced that the death was their fault due to something they did or said or something they did not do.

Feelings of guilt in response to bereavement can be heightened if the child or young person felt some sort of momentary animosity towards the deceased person whilst they were alive. Guilt can also follow instances where the child or young person has felt momentary relief during their grieving. If a child or young person is allowed to stay up and watch television for an hour more than they would have been when the deceased person was alive they can feel guilty for enjoying this lapse in rules. Children and young people can also feel guilty if they forget to think of the deceased person even for as little as five minutes.

It is vital that bereaved children and young people are reassured that they are in no way guilty of the death and that nothing they said / did not say, did / didn’t do would have prevented the death from occurring. Younger children can sometimes feel guilty that someone close to them died because they misbehaved on the way home from school or because they lied to a teacher. Never underestimate a bereaved child or young person’s perception of how they might feel responsible through personal inaction or cross words, for the death of their loved one.

When reassuring a grieving child or young person that they are not to blame remember to explain why and how they are not responsible. If the child or young person showers you with their reasons as to why they feel responsible, listen patiently and answer truthfully each question providing age appropriate examples of how they had no part in the death.

How Can You Help?

• Reassure the child or young person that they are not to blame for the death of someone close.
• Explore with your bereaved child or young person how and why they feel they are responsible for the death. In turn, explain how and why they are not responsible.
• Remember that not all bereaved children and young people who are experiencing guilt relating to the death of someone close will tell you that they are. However, increased anxiety and worry can often be indicative of guilt so try to be watchful for this. If the child or young person hasn’t mentioned that they feel guilty for the death, when you are talking with them remember to include reassurance that the death is not their fault for any reason.
• Encourage the child or young person to talk about how they are feeling and what they are thinking as and when they feel they need to.

Depression

Bereaved children and young people irrespective of their age or cognitive understanding will experience some sort of depression as they grieve.

When the bargaining has failed and the anger has proved fruitless, when the reality that the person who has died is never coming back is understood, the bereaved child or young person will probably experience depressive episodes.

This depression can manifest itself physically whereby the bereaved child or young person does not feel like eating, is lethargic and does not have any interest in previous hobbies or sports. Children and young people may complain of feeling “heavy” or feeling weak.

The grieving process although individual and unique to the mourner, is always arduous and painful. Bereaved children and young people might exhibit behaviour or make remarks that indicate they are confused or becoming absent minded. This is natural. The child or young person’s mind will have been so consumed by questions, guilt, fear, anxiety, etc, following the death of a loved one that they are bound to be confused.

Anxiety originating in bereaved children and young people from the loss of someone they love can permeate in to fears of someone else close to them dying or that they too might die. Anxiety can also cause some bereaved children and young people to fear that they might forget what the deceased person looked like, how they spoke and the like. Constant fretting and unresolved anxiety can lead to depressive episodes in children and young people.

Therefore it is important to allow the child or young person to discuss their worries and to not try and make them “snap out of it”. They can’t. Allow them the time to express their sadness whilst ensuring that they are able to communicate their feelings as and when they need to.

How Can You Help?

• Ensure that your bereaved child or young person knows that their feelings are important. Depression can knock a person’s self esteem and feelings of worth so help your young person or child to feel valued and cared for.
• Recognise that depression experienced as a response to someone dying is not the same as clinical depression and therefore depressive episodes and symptoms amongst bereaved children and young people are to be expected.
• Encourage your child or young person to participate in hobbies, sports and existing friendships if they feel ready to.
• If you become concerned about your child or young person’s welfare following the death of someone close seek the support of your your GP and a therapist.

Acceptance

Gradually as the reality that the death of someone close is irreversible settles in the mind of the bereaved child or young person the move towards acceptance becomes apparent.

Try to avoid viewing the child or young person’s acceptance of the death as a sign that they are “back to normal”. The term “acceptance” in this case means that the bereaved child or young person has now become aware that the person who has died is never coming back and that life will never be the same again.

Children and young people who have been bereaved will need time to reach acceptance and the length of time needed is dependant on the individual child or young person. To enable the child or young person’s move towards acceptance the maintaining of routines and “normal life” is crucial.

Bereaved children and young people will cope better if their normal routines and daily structure are kept the same. If too many alterations to this routine are made, the child or young person could become confused or anxious as semblances of their daily lives are interrupted.

Remember, the bereavement that the child or young person has experienced will have already dramatically changed their lives and unsettled feelings of emotional security therefore any other changes are likely to heighten their sense of emotional unrest.

How Can You Help?

• Help the bereaved child or young person to understand that it is OK to laugh, smile and become interested in life again and that this is in no way disrespectful to the person who has died.
• Reassure the bereaved child or young person that not thinking about the person who has died all the time is OK too.
• Help your child or young person to realise that although their lives will never be the same again that this doesn’t mean they won’t have a happy life or exciting future ahead of them.
• Participate in activities designed to remember the person who has died with your bereaved child or young person if they ask you to.

Key Points to Remember

• No bereaved child or young person will respond to the death of someone close in the same way.
• Keep the structure of the bereaved child or young person’s day / night as routine as possible.
• Allow the bereaved child or young person to say how they feel and do not be offended if they are angry with you or do not want to talk.
• Give the bereaved child or young person the time to explore their grief and support them as they mourn.
• Do not feel that you have failed if you need to seek professional help for the bereaved child or young person. You are doing the right thing.
• Put in place appropriate boundaries if a grieving child or young person is hurting themselves or others and explain why such boundaries are necessary.
• Do not dismiss a bereaved child or young person’s real or perceived illness. Talk things through with them in an open and honest way, remembering to listen to the child or young person.

Get The Help You Need

Email me to make a start.

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