When someone in a family dies it can be a devastating time for everyone. It can feel like in a moment your world has been turned upside down. Each year
1 in 29 school age children in the UK are bereaved of a parent or sibling
24,000 parents die each year leaving dependent children
At SeeSaw we see adults, not surprisingly, trying to protect their children from the devastating truth about what has happened. Understandably they want their children’s pain to be taken away. But what children most need is honest, age appropriate answers to their questions about what has happened. To exclude them from the truth can lead to feelings of isolation and confusion.
Grief is a natural process; a response to a deeply felt loss. Many people are familiar with the idea that there are stages of grief, you pass from one stage to the next and then you are ‘over it’. This suggests that there is a time scale for grief which can put pressure on adults and children to ‘move on’ before they are ready.
There is no such time scale, but often children’s feelings and behaviours can be indicators of how they are coping following a death.
At SeeSaw we like to suggest:-
That grieving should be measured in years, not days, weeks or months
That people need permission to grieve
That grieving is a time of adjustment that is experienced differently by everyone, even within the same family
That families need support to dispel the myth that they have to pass through stages of grief to a point of ‘getting over it’
That grief is not about forgetting the person who has died, but about negotiating a way through the sadness and sense of loss.
That grief is a time of adjusting to life without the person, and then finding ways of remembering and taking the memories forward.
The theme for this year’s Grief Awareness Week
is “Remember When” – encouraging families to share memories of the person who has died. If you know someone who has been bereaved why not talk to them about their memories of the person who died.
An important part of the work we do with families at Seesaw is to help them build memories. Some children worry about forgetting the person who has died so putting memories in a safe place like a memory box can be really important. Other families struggle to talk about the person who has died because remembering is too painful. Using a variety of activities we can gently help children to talk and remember. One idea is to make a “memory star” with the child. You can download our memory star resource here.