Bereavement – support for all

The death of a loved one can be devastating. Bereavement affects people in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

You might feel a lot of emotions at once, or feel you are having a good day, then you wake up and feel worse again.

Stages of bereavement or grief
Experts generally accept there are four stages of bereavement:

You will probably go through all these stages, but you won’t necessarily move smoothly from one to the next. Your grief might feel chaotic and out of control, but these feelings will eventually become less intense.

Coping with grief
Talking and sharing your feelings with someone can help. Don’t go through this alone. For some people, relying on family and friends is the best way to cope.

If you don’t feel you can talk to them much – perhaps you aren’t close, or they’re grieving, too – you should contact your local bereavement services.

A bereavement counsellor can give you the time and space to talk about your feelings, including the person who has died, your relationships, family, work, fears and the future. You can have access to a bereavement counsellor at any time, even if the person you lost died a long time ago.

What help and support is available?
Further sources of information, advice, and support for children and adults regarding emotional well-being and mental health are outlined below.

Death of a child – support for families

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy, but when that loved one is a child, this can be even more difficult for a family.

When a baby or child dies, professionals who are directly in contact with the family may be asked for information about what needs to happen, including the review process, and what sources of support are available.

Guidance for parents and carers on a range of issues can be found on the Lullaby Trust website at www.lullabytrust.org.uk/bereavement-support/

The following national organisations can also offer support and advice in specific areas:

Support for schools and community groups

In the event of a tragic incident or death it is often hard to know what to expect, what to say, or what to do.  When such an event occurs people will react in their own way. This is the case  for children, young people, adults and those who who care for them.

Feeling sad is a normal response to any loss regardless of how close to an event a person may be; some people may not be affected, whilst some will experience a great deal of sadness. These responses are completely normal.

In the first days and weeks
Everyone is unique and will react differently, but typical reactions to a tragic event can include:

  • shock
  • disbelief
  • stress
  • nervousness, fear or anxiety
  • difficulty sleeping
  • worry
  • low mood
  • irritability
  • anger.

These feelings are completely normal reactions. For some people who have been bereaved previously, these reactions may be compounded and might lead to feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.

We are all individuals and there is no right or wrong way to be coping or feeling. We all have different ways of responding and circumstances can vary greatly, from those with strong extended networks to those who are more isolated or do not have friends and family they can turn to.

In the following weeks and months
For most of us, especially if we have never experienced problems with anxiety or low mood before, these psychological effects will gradually disappear over time and with support from our peers and community.

A period of ‘watchful waiting’ is advised, which means just keeping an eye on yourself and others and checking out how things are going.

Ask – it won’t harm. Listen – it might help – talking about how someone is feeling with them does not increase the risk, but it can ensure they get the right support.

What to do and where to get help if you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s mental well-being
There are things that can help yourself or that you can encourage others to do:

  • DO take time to sleep, rest, think, and be with those important to you
  • DO try to keep life as normal as possible
  • DO understand that memories and feelings may stay for some time to come – this is your mind’s way of trying to make sense of it all
  • DO say what you need clearly and honestly to family, friends and others
  • DO let children talk about their emotions and express themselves in games / drawing
  • DO be kind to yourself and others
  • DON’T bottle feelings up – express your emotions and let others share in your worries
  • DON’T avoid talking about what has happened
  • DON’T let your embarrassment stop you giving others the chance to talk.

If you feel that your reactions, or the reactions of young people or adults in your care, have got stuck, seeking help is sensible and is not a sign of weakness.

Contact your GP or get support from one of the organisations listed below.

National helplines and support

There are lots of organisations who can offer support:

  • Childline advises children 24 hours a day and offers free confidential counselling – call 0800 1111 or chat 1-2-1 with a counsellor online via the website at  www.childline.org.uk
  • Samaritans offer 24 hour confidential listening and support for anyone who needs it – call 116 123 or visit their website at www.samaritans.org
  • Young Minds can help if you are feeling worried or anxious regarding a range of issues including bereavement, self-harm, bullying, eating disorders and exam stress – visit their website at www.youngminds.org.uk  for more information
    • parents and carers can get help and advice from the Young Minds parent helpline on 0808 802 5544 or through the website at www.youngminds.org.uk
  • Papyrus provide confidential support and advice to young people struggling with thoughts of suicide, and anyone worried about a young person through their helpline HOPELINE UK on 0800 068 4141 or their website at www.papyrus-uk.org
  • Winston’s Wish provide specialist child bereavement support services across the UK, including in-depth therapeutic help. There are also a number of resources and publications to help support children and young people – call 0808 802 0021 or visit their website at www.winstonswish.org for advice and guidance
    • they also have page aimed at young people help2makesense.org which support children and young people to make sense of bereavement and help each other
  • Child Bereavement UK  supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement – visit their website www.childbereavementuk.org
  • The Bluebell Foundation provides support for people experiencing grief associated with loss during pregnancy, death of a baby, child or young person – visit their website  www.bluebell.org.uk/
    • they also provide support for children and young people up to the age of 18 who are grieving through the death or anticipated death of someone important to them.

Further Support
If you have concerns about an adult or child’s emotional health:

  • contact their GP, social worker or Senior Practitioner in health (if appropriate)
  • visit Early Help Services at  hsm.manchester.gov.uk and contact the Early Help Team
  • if you have serious safeguarding concerns regarding an adult or child please follow your normal procedures or find further information in concerned?

Digital well-being

The internet and social media are an amazing resource which enables us to connect, communicate and be creative in a number of different ways, on a range of devices. However, it can also prove a place of challenge, particularly to the well-being of children and young people.

It is vital that parents, carers and practitioners are vigilant in their understanding of the digital world in which many children and young people exist. We can support  children and young people by having open, honest and supportive conversations about their activity on social media, gaming and the Internet to better understand and prepare them for an often hidden world.

Resources for parents/carers, schools and those working with young people can be found on the website www.thinkuknow.co.uk/  – there are activities and information for children and young people themselves.

For parents and carers there is more information available from the Parentzone website at  parentzone.org.uk/advice/parent-guides

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