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Children – The Forgotten Mourner

17 November 2017

Bereaved Children’s Awareness Week (BCAW) takes place this week to highlight the needs of bereaved children and how to support them through difficult periods of loss.

Organised by The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network (ICBN), the week coincides with Universal Children’s Day and helps those supporting bereaved children including parents, carers, teachers, sports groups, faith communities or friends in their local communities.

“‘Children Grieve Too’ is the key message for next week. We’re highlighting that we all have a part to play in supporting children through the journey of grief,” said Brid Carroll, Chair, ICBN.

“Unlike adults, children dip in and out of grief which is often termed ‘puddle grief’. It can be intermittent and intense but also can pass quickly, distracted by friends and activities. Children also tend to protect parents from their pain and upset. This often leaves their grief unrecognised.

Grief in childhood and teens makes the young person feel different from their peers. Children try to control their grief holding it in and pretending nothing has happened. This can be isolating. Each child in a family grieves differently due to their personality, gender and the relationship they had with the person who has died,” said Ms Carroll.

In Ireland 80 people die daily. These are the parents, grandparents, cousins and siblings of our 1.2million children. Children grieve too with 2.2% of nine year olds having lost a parent, 6% a close friend and 28% a grandparent.

Britain’s first Children’s Commissioner Professor Sir Al Aynsley Green spoke in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin on Tuesday as part of BCAW about meeting the needs of children where someone close to them dies in an adult acute hospital.

Sir Al commented: “For 40 years I had pent-up anger about not being allowed to say goodbye to my father before he died when I was 10 years old; nor see his body before the funeral. We know there is a huge toll of unresolved grief in adults bereaved as a child of someone they love.

There needs to be more focus on how death is handled across society especially in supporting grieving children and we need to ‘Think Adult, Think Child’. In other words, making sure those caring for a dying adult ask what does the death mean for the children in the family. There is hard evidence of what’s most important for bereaved children; death needs to be seen as part of life, children’s fears and anxieties need to be addressed and children need to be listened to carefully to encourage them to talk about what they feel.

“I spoke in Beaumont Hospital on Tuesday about ‘Think Adult, Think Child’ for health care professionals and meeting the needs of children where someone close to them dies in an adult acute hospital.”

Events are taking place nationwide throughout the week. The ICBN is hosted by the Irish Hospice Foundation and funded together with Tusla. See www.childhoodbereavement.ie for more info.

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