Supporting pupils who have lost someone during Covid

Written by: Gail Precious | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Gail Precious discusses the impact of Covid-19 on the numbers of bereaved pupils and outlines some considerations for teachers when offering support to a grieving pupil

When the research emerged in July estimating that at least 10,000 children have been bereaved of a primary care-giver across the UK due to the pandemic (Hillis et al, 2021), there was nothing.

No headlines, no awareness and once again children and young people’s grief and experiences were quietly ignored.

When you consider that – according to estimates from the Childhood Bereavement Network (CBN) – more than 50,000 children have had a parent, guardian or carer die from other causes over the last 20 months, it has never been so important to talk to our children and young people about their experiences and their grief.

And teachers will often set the tone for how a bereaved pupil’s grief will be acknowledged.

Bereavement is a tricky subject to talk about. As a society, we don’t talk about it often, and many people feel awkward discussing death, dying and bereavement with those closely affected. We don’t have the right words to say, we feel uneasy, we don’t want to cause further pain or grief.

The CBN believes we should be talking about it. That a society that talks about grief and bereavement is a healthier society, a supportive society and one that helps to prepare children and young people for the many types of loss they will encounter in their lifetime, including bereavement.

We also believe that the best way to find out what support our children and young people need is to ask them. Together with our partners in the UK Commission on Bereavement, we launched a series of national surveys for bereaved children and young people of all ages.

The surveys are an opportunity for bereaved children and young people to talk about their experiences: what helped and what could be improved. If you are aware of a bereaved child or young person who is ready to talk about their experience, consider signposting them to these surveys or running a consultation activity in your school. The surveys are open until February 20. The surveys have a range of support around them and the CBN’s charity members are on hand to support grieving children.

Meanwhile, the CBN has a range of resources to help schools to support bereaved pupils. From our free Growing In Grief Awareness whole school approach, to our postcards to help bereaved children signal what they need from teachers and other adults in their life, and to our local support map, there are many ways we can provide you with the resources you need to create and maintain safe spaces in your setting for bereaved children and young people.

Our members – Child Bereavement UK, Grief Encounter and Winston’s Wish – all have lesson plans and support on offer for those working with children and young people in educational settings. Many of our local members can provide training and support.

Finally, your own wellbeing is paramount. Dealing with grief and bereavement can be daunting and also exhausting, particularly if you have also been bereaved. Make sure you are aware of what support is available to you, from Cruse Bereavement Support and local bereavement services.

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