Supporting Young People Facing Bereavement

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    North London Hospice
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    North London Hospice

It is estimated that at any one time 70% of schools have a recently bereaved child on their roll. This highlights a growing need to ensure schools and teaching staff are equipped to support children during these difficult times.

Now in its second year, the ‘Supporting Young People Facing Bereavement’ study day provides valuable guidance to teaching staff and last week welcomed 17 teachers from Barnet, Enfield and Hertsmere to its workshop at North London Hospice’s Health and Wellbeing Centre in Winchmore Hill.

The day was delivered by staff from North London Hospice and Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice and aimed to increase the confidence of teaching staff when supporting a child or young person who is going through a period of bereavement, loss or change.

“There is a growing need to provide the teaching community with the guidance and tools to help and support children during their grief experience,” said North London Hospice Practice Educator Jackie Somerville.

“Our study day helps teaching staff reflect on their own feelings and experiences of bereavement first and then provides them with tools to support children as they work through their own period of grief.”

Thought-provoking discussions were held on a range of issues surrounding bereavement, as well as practical ways of helping children using play featured throughout the day. Vikki Kempster from Noah’s Ark led a memory session, which saw participants making memory jars, using layers of coloured salt to represent different aspects of someone they wanted to remember.

Catherine Toohey, Family Link Manager at Noah’s Ark was among the day’s trainers. She explained: “Death is still very much a taboo subject, meaning that many people find talking to a bereaved person difficult. Although highly experienced at communicating with young people, teachers are no exception.

“There’s a widespread fear of responding badly, which sometimes stops people from reaching out to a bereaved person, leaving them isolated. Bereavement training helps people understand the grieving process and how to listen and respond.”

The study days are one example of collaboration between North London Hospice and Noah’s Ark. The two charities are also working together to facilitate a Youth Group for 15-18 year olds living with life threatening/life limiting conditions, with a vision to further develop services for young adults at the NLH Health and Wellbeing Centre in Winchmore Hill.

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