Bereaved children and young people in the UK are today’s ‘hidden mourners’, with untold life-long effects of unresolved grief in adults bereaved as children.
‘Thank you Al for sharing your life with us from which we now know that we too can be successful despite the tragedies we’re suffering’ Comment from bereaved and grieving young people in ‘circle time’ at Winston’s Wish
In 2015, around 23 000 parents of dependent children under 18 died in the UK leaving some 41 000 children and young people. A parent dies every 22 min, with around 1 in 29 children bereaved of a parent or sibling—roughly one per class, and over 252 000 5–16 years old in England alone. Bereavement means to leave desolate or alone, especially through death, with grief meaning deep and intense sorrow. Anguish, sorrow and solitude are particularly challenging for children. Despite this, there is a lack of awareness in society and in adult-centric organizations of the importance of grief in childhood.
‘Think adult—think child’ means that all staff caring for dying adults should take responsibility for asking what the death means for the children in the family, with schools, primary care and faith organizations having protocols and expertise available to support grieving children; recent catastrophes expose need for agencies to have management plans that focus on vulnerable children and young people.
I work with bereavement support services internationally to increase the awareness of the importance of grief in childhood.