Supporting a Bereaved Teen
In order to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be bereaved youngster, we invited a student with state school experience to comment on her first-hand experiences and recommendations.
“In the UK, every 22 minutes someone under the age of 18 loses a parent according to Child Bereavement UK.
This statistic is incredibly high, and I think that it is important for everyone to understand how to support a child who is in need of help. Grief is not something anyone should face alone, especially not a child.
I am one of those children who has lost a parent, except I have lost both. I am currently 17 years old and I am here to share a little bit about me and my story.
I lost my mum on the 9th November 2015 to breast cancer and it was a massive shock to everyone in my family. Even though we were aware my mum was severely unwell, I do not think any of us thought it would get to the stage of her passing away.
The day after I lost my mum, I went into school. At the time, my dad and I were completely unaware of the support that my school could give me. This could potentially have been because I was young – only two months into year 7, or the fact that it was not made clear by the school that I could be supported, or that there wasn’t that much support available at the time.
One child in every UK classroom will experience the death of someone close by the time they reach 16 years old, according to Grief Encounter.
I specifically remember the feeling of being isolated as the news began to pass through my year group. I would walk through the corridors feeling as though everyone was staring at me. No one said a word, they just looked. I think the problem was that no one knew how to react, no one knew what to say and no one knew how to support me.
I was just left to get on with life. Honestly, looking back, it was a daily struggle.
Everyday seemed to get easier for me to cope with and then, after about a year or so, I found myself in a great place. I didn’t have any outside support but I had the best group of friends; I gained confidence and grew closer to my family. Life was amazing and I am so grateful for everything I did.
However, October 2018 came around and life started to go downhill, yet again.
My dad started getting more and more sick, he began to get weaker every day and that was painful to watch. My dad was ill for a very long time – 12 years to be exact – but It had never seemed to faze him until 2018. I remember that he was constantly in and out of hospital, meeting with his consultant and nurses. He started chemotherapy and from there, he deteriorated.
In January of 2019, dad was given a year to live. I was unaware of this at the time as I think that my dad wanted to protect me from this information. On Friday the 8th of November, my brother and I were taken home from school and sent to the hospital where we were told it would be a matter of days until he passed. He passed away on the following Tuesday.
After then, my life was a blur.
I did not return to school until the Friday. At school I met my Head of House at the gate and we went inside for a chat about the things that could be done to support me. I was very grateful for this. I was given a “time out pass” which meant I could leave any of my lessons at any time if I felt overwhelmed. For me, this was amazing because I felt no pressure to remain in my lessons unfocused and upset. Instead of attending my first lesson, I went to Focus which was an area in school specifically for supporting students who were having a difficult time. It was so amazing to have this because it gave me the chance to speak about my feelings freely. All my friends came into Focus the following week to discuss what they could do to help me get through this. I was in year 11 at the time so I was working exceptionally hard towards my GCSEs. If I had not received this support, I guarantee I would not have been able to sit my exams or come away with the grades I wanted.
Personally, I think it is difficult to understand how someone would like to be treated in a time like this. Everyone is so different and needs various types of support. I think the best way to do this is just a simple, quick conversation with the person who is going through grief – how can I/we help you?
I believe that it is equally as important to be supported in school as it is to be at home.
Even if you just approach the person and tell them that you are there for them, it can still help. You do not need to message them every day asking, ‘Are you okay?’ because the likelihood is that they are not. Simply letting them know you are thinking about them shows them that you care. If you are in doubt about how to treat them, just ask. This way you will avoid potentially making them upset. It will be the hardest thing they will have to go through but as long as they’re surrounded by the right people, they will get through it.
If you are one of those children who has lost a parent, just know that you are not alone. I had private counselling before I recently started college. The charity currently supporting me is Balloons, Exeter which seem to be brilliant so far. A grief support worker comes to my college and meets with me every Friday. I love the fact that they can help me during college during my breaks. There are many amazing charities in the UK that can help but many have long waiting lists or offer help depending on where you live, so I feel very lucky to have grief support actually during college.
In my experience you will have good and bad days. Sometimes, you may feel overwhelmed and as though life is not worth living but trust me it is! So many great things will come your way. Horrible times like these do not make you weak, they make you strong.
It has now been a year and I have grown as a person and I am so proud of who I am turning out to be. It hasn’t been the easiest journey, but I am getting there. Not a day goes by that I do not think about my parents, but I am slowly learning how to cope with grief.
Grief is an outpouring of love. It is important to grieve and know how to support young people in different ways.”
Safe-guarding.co is very grateful to this young student for bravely sharing experiences and recommendations for this blog.
Useful Resources for Bereaved Teens:
If you feel like grief and sadness is interfering with daily life, talking to a GP may help, they can suggest some options to offer more support, or may refer to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or bereavement counselling.
Grief is a process and the need for support or counselling can come at any time. This is why it doesn’t matter if it’s a short or long time after your loss, you should ask for support whenever you think you need it. Please see the below links for additional resources:
For more information on how to support schools/ colleges and resources to develop staff knowledge of safeguarding in learning environments, please contact us.
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