Practical and emotional wellbeing support following bereavement

Many children and young people will have questions and worries about the coronavirus, but those who have experienced the death of someone important or who have an ill family member will be particularly affected.

 

The information contained in this page details sources of support for all ages, including those who may have experienced the loss of a child.

In addition, Beck Ferrari, STLS district team and KEPS have provided answers to those initial questions that you yourself may have.  They have provided information about those things that you will want to consider as you welcome back to school those children and young people who may be experiencing loss and grief, in the immediate, the first few weeks and longer term. We are grateful to them for such comprehensive advice and guidance.

 

When a child dies

Cruse – information and advice following the death of a pupil

Cruse – support for schools following the death of a pupil

NHS – support for parents and carers following the death of a child

GOV.UK – information and advice if a baby or child dies

 

Helping children and young people manage grief and loss

A young man is sitting on the floor with his back against a wall with his head in his handsCruse – Coping with trauma and loss – someone close to you may have died in sudden and/or traumatic circumstances.  You may have witnessed the death, or the deaths and injury of others.  This leaflet explains some common reactions and sources of help.

Cruse – Restoring hope  – This leaflet is about what you can do to help yourself, how others can help you, how you can help other people who may be struggling to cope after the death of someone close and where you can get more advice and support.

Cruse – Help is at hand – support after someone may have died of suicide.

Cruse – Coronavirus grief and trauma – If someone dies of coronavirus or complications resulting from the virus, a number of things may be particularly hard for family and friends to deal with.

Cruse – A  child’s understanding of death – is different at different stages of development.  Helpline: 0808 808 1677.

Rewrite your story –  Free carers support –  Supporting carers who may have suffered Psychological distress whilst working in care homes or caring for someone in their own home.

The Education Safeguarding Service will continue to support schools through the statutory process to be followed in the event of a death of a pupil or of a sibling of a pupil.

If you require further information, please call your Area Safeguarding Advisor or refer to the Kent County Council (KCC) emergency planning guidance, sent to you by your Area Education Office.

Hope Again is a website for young people going through a bereavement, where you can find information, read other people’s experiences, and add your own.

The Kent-based charity Holding on Letting go helps young people (6 – 16) to cope with the death of someone close to them. Workshops available.

Slideaway (Age: 5-19) Area: West Kent offer workshops

Winston’s Wish  has developed classroom resources regarding Covid-19 and bereavement. They also provide general information.

Two hands reaching for each otherChild Bereavement Charity offers information and advice.

Young Minds supporting your child with grief and loss.

The Children and Young People’s Counselling Service are  offering up to 12 sessions of bereavement support for children and young people aged 4-19 who are bereaved as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Access via the online portal or  03001234496.

This offer has been specifically tailored to the different circumstances that children now find themselves in and the provision will aim to reduce the long term impact, particularly on emotional wellbeing and mental health, from this trauma event.

A new text service for children, young people and adults needing immediate mental health support.  This can be accessed by texting the word “Kent” to 85258.  This is a 24/7 text service provided by SHOUT and the Crisis Text Line as part of the Kent and Medway Release the Pressure campaign.

Kent Educational Psychology Service (KEPS)

 Our Crisis Support Service Coordinators support school/school staff to support  children who are dealing with significant events in their life concerning grief or loss.

A haven of normality

Child bereavement advice for teachers

Coping with disastrous events

Death and loss in schools

Where there is a need for longer term support, referral to an appropriate agency will need to be made as necessary. Additional support from KEPS beyond the initial crisis response is available to schools through traded services. This can include Cognitive Behavioural Approaches, supporting individuals or group based psychological interventions.

Office hours:                                                          Out of Hours:

03000 41 01 00                                                          03000 41 01 01

These e-learning sessions offer Bereavement support that is aimed at professionals working with children, co-created by parent ‘experts by experience’. 

The resources found below are aimed at professionals supporting end of life care and bereavement.

This link will take you to a list of related topics under ‘end of life care’ which includes breaking bad news, using the telephone to break bad news, communicating with children about the death of a parent.

How can I plan and prepare for any bereaved pupils to return to school?

  • Check your Bereavement policy is up to date and reflects Covid-19 if appropriate to do so (see this Small Steps document or Child Bereavement UK for sample policies if your school does not yet have one).
  • Download the Small Steps document to share with any staff.A small white feather on a black floor
  • Make a “bereavement box” so you have resources to hand to support a bereaved pupil (see ideas below).
  • Collate resources available e.g. information leaflets for staff, parent/carers, books for staff and workbooks or story books for children. (see book list below).
  • Ensure you are aware of any children where bereavement has occurred within the family. Gently seek to find out about the circumstances of the death and what your pupil knows about it. Consider any cultural implications to understanding and supporting the family’s grief (eg. background, religion).
  • Consider accessing staff training to help build understanding and confidence (see training opportunities below).
  • Provide supervision for staff who may be experiencing their own anxieties, as well as supporting children, at this time.
  • Consider setting up a bereavement support group within districts/ collaborations.

What can I say or do to support one of my pupils who has been grieving through the lockdown period?

Checking in with families by phone can remind them that you are there and help you keep liaison going prior to return.

Grieving through the lockdown has the potential to have made things more challenging for bereaved families as they have had to manage without much of their support network and with far less to distract them.

What can I say or do to support a newly bereaved pupil where someone has died during the coronavirus pandemic?

It can be really helpful for families to know you are thinking of them and can make a big difference to families to know that school genuinely care and are interested in supporting their child.  You could send a card and follow up with a telephone call:

“I am so sad to hear about ……  How are you all managing at the moment?  Is there anything school can do at this stage to support your child? How are you and your child feeling about returning to school?”

You might want to send a small ‘comfort package’ with some items to support the child.  It might include as an example:

  • Bubbles to fill the sky with wishes
  • Colouring in when you want to be peaceful
  • Tissues to catch a tear
  • Forget me not seeds to sow in memory
  • A teddy bear for when you need a bear hug

Staff training opportunities

KEPS – Free Webinars

Grief and Loss in Schools

More details to follow via Kelsi and LIFT
Beck Ferrari – Bespoke webinar Bereavement Training for schools and settings Contact: [email protected]

Various dates available terms 6 and 1

What additional information is available if the person dies from Covid-19? 

If you find that the family were bereaved by Covid-19 you will be mindful of the difficult circumstances in which such a death occurred as well as the challenges for people in saying goodbye at end of life and in planning funeral services.

You may want to signpost families to helplines, specific support from bereavement organisations and to publications to support children in understanding this.

See book list and organisations below.

 

What plans do I need to make for a bereaved pupil to return to school? 

  • Discuss with the family about the pupil’s return to school letting them know that staff will be made aware of their bereavement.
  • Find out whether they would like their child’s peer group to be told in advance. Ask if there is anything that they or their child are concerned about.
  • Outline any support the school may be able to offer-remember to check with the pupil what they would like.
  • Signpost the family to support organisations.
  • For many children, school is a place of normality and routine but right now there are additional challenges in making school feel normal.
  • Bereaved children would benefit from being with familiar staff and peers, although with social bubbles being proposed as schools reopen, this may be more difficult to achieve.

 

What support could I set up for a grieving pupil? 

Lots of hands holding wooden letters spelling out SUPPORTSupport can be set up but needs to be adapted to the wishes of the returning pupil.  When so much around a child has changed it can be hard if others set out to control what they should do with their grief.

You might wish to consider having named staff (not just one) on hand to provide support. Remember that your ideal member of staff for such a role (warm, caring and empathetic) may not be the same as the pupil’s.

Prepare to adapt!

Decide on spaces that could be used if a pupil wishes to have some time out of class- both indoors and outdoors within safety parameters.  Agree these with the pupil on return.  Would they like anything available in these places to support them?

Consider a bereavement box (age appropriate) that might include:
  • A blank photo frame for decorating (card, foam, wood)
  • Puppets to encourage conversation
  • Water balloons to fill and burst outside to let go of feelings
  • Wooden spoons with wool and fabric offcuts to make two sided feelings faces
  • Foam hearts for decorating with ribbon to hang
  • Beads to thread to make a coping bracelet with each bead representing a key person for support
  • Feathers and voile bags with feathers representing memories
  • Mindful colouring activities
  • Jar, salt, chalk etc for a memory jar

 

What external support will be available to bereaved pupils and their families?

Paper chain peopleMost children with good support from their family, friends and school will adjust and manage their grief.  Many children, along with their families will benefit from accessing group support within their school and/or from bereavement organisations (see below).

A few may have more difficulties with their grieving journey because of challenges within the home environment, the traumatic nature of the death and factors that make it difficult for the child to make sense of the death.

These children may require more specialist therapeutic support on top of that provided by the school.   Research suggests that being bereaved from Covid-19 increases the risk of more complicated grief.  Pupils bereaved by Covid-19 who require it will have access to counselling sessions funded by Kent Community Health Foundation Trust (KCHFT).

Where can I learn more about supporting bereaved pupils? 

There are many excellent resources to develop staff understanding about child bereavement and to provide families with helpful information. Many have specific help for bereavement by Covid-19. A good place to start is:

Child Bereavement UK Schools Information pack

Additional Guidance about COVID-19 and video clips

Winston’s Wish Guidance on supporting children with coronavirus
Grief Encounter Supporting bereaved young people
Kent Educational Psychology Service School Support Services – resources available from Kelsi
Small Steps – Supporting bereaved young children in early years settings A support guide for pre-school settings to help a child with their grieving journey.
Slideaway Toolkit for Schools
Beck Ferrari Contact for consultation or training – [email protected]

 

What books could I read to understand grief from a child or young person’s perspective and how my school can help?

The little book of bereavement for schools Ian Gilbert A personal account of how schools tried to support one family after the death of their mother, containing ‘must know’ advice and structured into 15 points for schools to follow
A child’s grief Winston’s Wish An accessible guide for parents and professionals
Grief in children: A handbook for adults Atle Dyregrov An excellent handbook providing advice and strategies for understanding and supporting a grieving child
Time4Me An interactive workbook to be used with children and an adult. It is designed to facilitate conversations around the death of a significant person

Other resources supporting emotional wellbeing for return to schools