A new book to help children experiencing the loss of a loved one has been launched by Neville Funerals, one of the region’s longest standing family owned businesses.
The company, which has branches across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire; has produced the free guide, ‘Supporting a Child Through Bereavement and Beyond’, in response to questions from parents and relatives who often feel unequipped to support children through bereavement.
It has been designed to help parents or carers support children through this difficult time and covers a range of topics including how to break bad news; typical behaviours and what to look out for; how to explain a funeral, burial or cremation; and looking to the future.
Louise Clarke, Community and Pre-Need Manager at Neville Funerals helped to write the book. Louise has over 18 years’ experience working within the funeral industry and helps to run the Neville Funerals’ Talking Elephants groups and Lea Bereavement Support Service courses. She also supports CHUMS with its child bereavement workshops and counselling.
She explains: “When children experience bereavement, it can be a very difficult time as they try to cope with unfamiliar feelings and comprehend what dying means. We get lots of questions from parents and carers who are unsure how to best support their children, especially when they themselves are also grieving.
“There is a lot of information out there but it can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming. We wanted to create something that is straight forward, easy to read and offers practical advice on how to help children understand what they're going through and what happens when someone dies.
“Every child is unique and will cope with their loss in their own way. There’s no rule book that says how to support your child but we hope our guide helps parents and carers to make sense of things, answers some questions and gives a better understanding of what they might need throughout the days, weeks, months and even years ahead.”
Here are some of the helpful tips in the new guide for helping children through the grieving process:
• Look after yourself - Managing life and dealing with your own grief, as well as supporting your child, is exhausting. Try to eat well, keep hydrated and get some rest. Ask for (and accept) help from friends and family. No one expects you to be a superhero and it is OK for others, including your child, to see you upset.
• Be open, honest and truthful - giving bad news to a child is always difficult. Be honest with them and give the information using language they can understand. Only give as much information as your child wants and answer their questions truthfully. Don’t be afraid to tell them if you don’t have the answer, but reassure them that you will try to find out.
• Use the correct language – it is important to use real words such as ‘dead’ as it is the best way to explain to a child what has happened. Stay away from phrases like ‘passed away’, as this could lead them to think the person might come back. Similarly, ‘gone to sleep’ could evoke a fear in sleeping or that the person will wake up.
• Try to keep to a routine – children thrive on routine, so try to carry on as much as possible with the normal routines of home, school, clubs, time with friends. The familiarity of school and being around friends can be comforting and give your child a chance to have some time off from grieving.
• All reactions are natural – children can experience a wide range of feelings after the death of a loved one. Common behaviours might include anger or tantrums, not sleeping, being irritable or restless, repetitive behaviour, attention seeking, appearing sad and withdrawn, or subject avoidance. You might feel that some of their reactions are inappropriate, but each child will react differently and each reaction is natural.
• Involve children in the funeral – including your child in how to say goodbye can be a valuable part of their grieving process. Talk to them and explain what options are available to them. For example, let them pick special songs or poems, or have a say in which coffin they want for their special person. Suggest they might want to put a special note, drawing or object into the coffin. If they then decide not to attend the funeral, they did at least have a part in the goodbye.
• Dealing with the future – there are no timescales for how long the grieving process should last. Remember to be kind to yourself and take each day as it comes. Talk often about the person who has died and find your own ways to remember them. Talking to your children about the person who died gives them permission to talk about them too.
A free copy of the book, ‘Supporting a Child Through Bereavement and Beyond’ can be obtained from any of Neville Funerals’ eight branches. For more information and to find your local branch, visit www.nevillefuneralservice.com