One in 29 school age children in the UK—almost one in every classroom—have been bereaved of a parent or sibling. New data published today by the Childhood Bereavement Network found that children whose mum or dad had died were less likely to talk to someone at home about their worries (60% compared to 72% of those not bereaved) or to share their concerns with a friend (28% compared to 40%).
The findings are released to mark the start of the UK Children’s Grief Awareness Week (17-23 November), which aims to raise awareness of grieving children and the support available to them. Coordinated by the Childhood Bereavement Network and Grief Encounter, and supported by organisations across the UK including Cruse Bereavement Care, the week has a theme of #MakeTime2Listen.
Enya Nicholl, one of Cruse Bereavement Care’s youngest volunteers, today spoke out about the importance of listening to bereaved children:
"My name is Enya and I'm 13. I came to the Cruse Get Together weekend because my Daddy died about a year ago. The best thing about being here is that you can be more open and have people understand what you're feeling and so you're not alone anymore."
Enya is one of 62 children in Northern Ireland who has participated in the Get Together - Bereaved Families Discovering project funded under the Big Lottery Fund's Supporting Families programme. The project is a partnership combining the bereavement support skills of Cruse Bereavement Care with Corrymeela Community's long experience of family and reconciliation work.
Enya lives in Derry with her mother Andrea and two sisters. Her father Gerry died at home of silent Pneumonia in March 2015. Having experienced the loss of her own mother as a young teenager, Andrea was keen for her children to have a different experience of bereavement than she had had herself. She was also very excited about Get Together’s residential aspect at Corrymeela in Ballycastle, because she had been there with her family as a child and had wonderful memories from the place.
Following the “Roots & Wings” residential her family attended in June, Andrea said:
“It was an amazing experience for me personally. I so enjoyed meeting other people; I felt I was in a big bubble with everyone safe inside. Seeing my children having fun with other children was great and I feel their experience will be there for a lifetime. It was a weekend where the children remembered their daddy, but had fun while still remembering. They were able to think of him in a happy way. It was the first time my children and I had really laughed in a long time.”
Enya commented about the weekend, “Being here got me more involved with my family. Me and my sisters have been spending more time together and I've seen my Mammy just come round of herself, ‘cause she hasn't been herself since my daddy passed away. I like seeing that because it's like we're a family that's at peace. Do not be afraid to come here if you're trying to do this, it's not about being scared, it's about telling what you think and you won’t feel alone anymore after this.”
Young Cruse Coordinator Elaine Roub stated that the Get Together project seeks to reduce isolation and increase resilience for 50 bereaved families, as well as raising public awareness of childhood bereavement. Since the project began in 2014, 28 families who have lost a parent have participated in free activity days and residentials. In September 2016, families who have experienced the death of a child/sibling were invited to join Get Together for residentials and activity days held between November 2016 and September 2017.
Underlining the Children’s Grief Awareness Week theme of making time to listen, the most sage advice came from seven-year-old Curtis, who said simply: “Don’t be scared to talk about your mum or dad who has died.”
To learn more about this international event, visit www.childrensgriefawarenessweek.com and use the hashtag #ChildrensGriefAwareness.
Image: Enya at the Get Together weekend with volunteer Dessie
For more information on Cruse Bereavement Care, or to arrange interviews with families quoted here, please contact Elaine Roub, Young Cruse Coordinator at 079510348168 or Elaine.firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit www.childrensgriefawarenessweek.com and www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk/campaigns/childrens-grief-awarene... for more information.