Campaigners are calling for a renewed focus on the children who have lost their parent or carer during Covid-19, warning their plight has dwindled in the public consciousness as the pandemic desensitises us to loss and grief.
At least 10,000 children have been bereaved of a primary caregiver across the UK due to the pandemic according to research published in the Lancet[i] in July 2021. And over 50,000 children have had a parent, guardian or carer die from other causes over the last 20 months[ii].
As childhood bereavement support services across the country mark Children’s Grief Awareness Week (18-25 November), charities are asking the public to listen to bereaved children and young people and understand how important it is to them to receive support when they are grieving. Their words have been captured in a series of word clouds, with an overwhelming message of support, community and acceptance.
Anita Hicks, Clinical Lead and Co-Founder at Sandy Bear Children’s Bereavement Charity says. ‘It is vitally important to normalise grief in children and young people and to use appropriate words for them to clearly understand what has happened when a loved one has died. This enables them to tell the story from their own perspective and allows them to form happy memories which creates continuing bonds. Since the pandemic began, we have had up to 150 active referrals to support children and young people through their bereavements. During lockdown, we were able to offer remote sessions and have since been able to provide face-to-face assessments and peer support group for a range of ages, both children, young people and their parents/carers.’
‘The word cloud generated by the Childhood Bereavement Network highlights that there should not be a stigma around children developing an understanding about the death of their loved one and that this can be beneficial for a child or young person. The children and young people of Pembrokeshire get the chance to meet others like them at Sandy Bear Children’s Bereavement Charity and feel comfortable to speak openly within a secure environment.’
‘Since reopening our charity after the lockdown period, we have been able to run four children’s groups (6-11 years old), one Sandy Cubs group (0-5 years old) and one teenage group (12-18 years old) as well as one-to-one family support. Our staff and volunteers have worked extremely hard to ensure that everyone has received appropriate support. We are always looking for new volunteers to recruit in a number of different roles including admin support, working with children, young people and adults and fundraising events as what we do would not be possible without our volunteers.’
The charities have also asked bereaved children and young people what they would say to another bereaved child or young person who is not yet receiving specialist support. The sector is acutely aware that with the increase in bereavement, there are children out there who could benefit from being in a welcoming environment to support them around their grief. Again, children have endorsed the vital work offered by childhood bereavement practitioners.