Childline bereavement advice for the pandemic

Edmond Chan, senior supervisor at Childline, takes a look at how to cope with bereavement during a pandemic.

Tuesday, 29th December 2020, 3:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th December 2020, 3:08 pm

Losing a loved one is a heart-breaking experience and sadly one that more of us than usual have had to face this year due to the global pandemic.

New analysis by bereavement charity Sudden has shown that in Crawley, there were 74 Covid-19 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, leaving an estimated 370 local people affected by sudden bereavement and increased risk of experiencing PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

For children, feelings of grief and loss can be much harder to process. It’s common for children to wonder if what they’re feeling is right or wrong and they might not understand some of the complex emotions they’re experiencing.

Childline counsellor

Children who speak to the NSPCC’s Childline service tell us they feel confused, scared, numb or out of control. They wonder if they’re ever going to feel ok again.

One 17-year-old girl told our counsellors: “I am struggling to come to terms with the death of my gran last week. She passed away due to coronavirus unexpectedly. I feel angry and upset because I didn’t get to say goodbye. I am finding it difficult at night as I keep thinking about her and my emotions overwhelm me. I don’t feel I can talk to mum about it because it was her mum that died and she is in a difficult place.”

If you’re a parent or carer and you’re worried your child might be struggling with feelings of grief there are a few things you can do to help them:

Encourage them to talk

Ensure they know they can talk to you and talking won’t upset you even more. Sometimes if a child knows you’re grieving too they can be reluctant to open up but talking about how they’re feeling can really help.

If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you remember they can call Childline on 0800 1111.

When they can’t find the words

You can’t predict how your child might feel – they might want to keep their feelings to themselves, or they might find the emotions so overwhelming they simply have to let them out. There are lots of ways they can try and express themselves:

Encourage them to express their feelings with Childline’s online Art Box tool or doing something creative.

Try releasing anger by screaming into a pillow.

Why not write a letter to the person who died saying how they feel – they could keep the letter, or destroy it to signify releasing their feelings and letting go.

Keep a diary.

Let them know it’s ok to cry.

No matter how they choose to express themselves, it can help to talk about it afterwards.

There’s no right or wrong way to feel

Everyone has their own way of dealing with loss and nobody can tell you how you should feel after someone dies. There is no time limit on grief and not everyone around you may understand how it feels.

Urge your child to speak to someone they trust – that could be you, someone at school or a Childline counsellor. Or they could post on the Childline message boards where lots of young people talk about what it's like after someone dies.

How you feel after a death can change over time, but even if someone died a long time ago it's okay to still feel like you're grieving. And it's okay to continue talking about it.

Look after themselves

Make sure they’re looking after themselves by eating well and getting plenty of rest. They may find that they want to sleep more, especially soon after someone has died. They may also have dreams about the person who has died – this is the body’s way of coping with what's happened. If they can't sleep, there is advice about problems with sleeping on the Childline website.

Doing exercise can help with feeling stressed, even if it's just going for a walk or spending some time outside. There is further advice on taking care of yourself on the Childline website too.

It’s ok to ask questions

It's natural to be confused or have questions after someone's died. Asking questions will help them to feel more in control of what’s going on and finding the right person to talk to can make things much easier. It can help to encourage them to:

Think about who's best to ask and if they'll have the answers.

Make a list of things they'd like to ask about so they don't forget.

Plan a time when they can ask their questions without being disturbed or distracted.

Questions don't just have to be about how someone died or what's going to happen. Sometimes it can help to ask questions about what someone was like when they were alive.

If your child is struggling to ask about things on their mind, they can try speaking to a Childline counsellor to practice.

Get support for yourself

Make sure that you’re getting all the help and support you need too. It can be harder for children experiencing grief and loss if the adults around them are struggling as well.

Sudden runs a free helpline offering emotional and practical support. You can contact them on 0800 2600 400 or visit sudden.org for more information and advice.

Childline can be reached on 0800 1111 or find help online at childline.org.uk