Supporting young people with bereavement
Being there for young people experiencing grief and bereavement
Thousands of children experience bereavement under many different circumstances each year.
This could be the loss of a parent, grandparent, other family member or friend. It’s almost certain that one day you’ll come across a child who’s been bereaved.
Bereavement is the experience of losing someone important to us. Grief is the process and the range of emotions we go through as we gradually adjust to loss. These feelings and reactions can start before someone has died, if they have a life-threatening illness or their death seems a possibility.
As a trusted adult and volunteer, you’re a safe adult who can be there for girls when they need to talk. This might be because they’ve lost someone close to them, or you might have experienced a shared loss where someone involved in guiding locally has died.
You can support girls through:
- Active listening – which can include making affirmative noises (uhuh, mhm) and summarising or paraphrasing to check you’ve understood what they’ve said.
- Running activities to remember loved ones (see suggestions below) – these can be done virtually or when guiding units resume.
- Creating a ‘talking time’ at the end of or during a meeting, where girls can chat to you as a trusted adult in a safe space.
- Creating something together as a unit to remember someone.
Talking about bereavement
When talking to girls, remember to follow our good safeguarding behaviours.
Contact our safeguarding team if you receive any disclosures or are concerned about the wellbeing of any of your girls. You can email [email protected] or call 0207 834 6246 ext.3037 or the out of hours phone on 07508 032997. The out of hours phone line is for emergencies only, and is in operation 5pm-10pm Monday-Friday and 9am-10pm Saturday-Sunday.
Girls’ understanding and response to bereavement will change with their age. But by creating a fun, supportive space for them, you’re giving them an amazing gift of support and resilience during this time.
Grief is not a one-time thing – it’s an ongoing process. A child who has been bereaved as a Rainbow or a Brownie might come to you as a Guide or a Ranger and want to talk about a death from years earlier – this makes it important that you inform leaders of the next section during transitions.
No one child will react in the same way to a bereavement. Children will be impacted differently based on lots of different factors. Remember to think about existing mental health conditions, disabilities and additional needs, and other aspects of their identity, culture and background. Take a look at our guidance on including all for more information.
You can support parents and carers by:
- Letting them know how their daughter’s doing and what they asked or were told about bereavement and death.
- Signposting to organisations, resources and tools to help continue conversations outside the unit.
There are a number of activities available in the Girlguiding programme that you can utilise or adapt to help you with following up conversations on bereavement and loss. It’s really important to allow space for remembrance and creating memories. We’ve pulled together a small selection available to download.
- Rainbows turn them blue - a unit meeting activity which can be used to help girls remember and celebrate someone. This could be adapted to make a blue plaque for someone who means a lot to them.
- Brownies and Guides are you okay? - this activity from the First Aid skills builder stage 3 can be used to help girls recognise different emotions and support.
- Brownies and Guides happy thoughts - an activity from Feel Good skills builder stage 3 can be used to help girls create a glitter jar to process their thoughts.
- Rangers give and take - this Feel Good skills builder stage 5 activity can be used to help girls understand how their actions can support each other’s mental wellbeing.
- Our peer education think resilient resources can be used to help young people think about how they can develop their resilience and wellbeing during tough times.
We’ve also brought out bereavement toppers with help from Child Bereavement UK as an extra resource to support you if you need them. They’re a way to explore the topic of death with young people and help them navigate the emotions they experience when someone dies.
- Rainbows bereavement topper
- Brownies bereavement topper
- Guides bereavement topper
- Rangers bereavement topper
Find out more about toppers and how you can use them in this blog post.
Bereavement support resources
It’s important to know your limits. You’re not a bereavement councillor or expert, and that’s OK. There are so many amazing resources and organisations out there which can help explain things to girls and provide parents or carers' support during these difficult times. We’ve gathered some resources that might help these conversations.
For adult members, parents and carers
NSPCC: have support for parents on talking about difficult topics.
Young Minds: have a great parent guide for supporting young people during grief and loss.
NHS: have information on stress, anxiety and depression in young people following death.
For young members
Childline: a phoneline that children can use to talk about their feelings, with dedicated page on advice for young people when someone dies.
Kooth: a free online counselling and emotional wellbeing platform for children and young people.
The Mix: have lots of articles and discussion boards that affect young people under 25. The Mix also offers a helpline, counselling services and peer to peer support.
Child Bereavement UK: provides guidance and resources to all those affected when a child grieves or a child dies.
Winston’s Wish: provides support to children and young people after the death of a parent or sibling, including a freephone national helpline and online chat.
Grief Encounter: holds best practice bereavement training and residential retreats for bereaved families.
Hope Again: a safe place designed for bereaved young people to connect with one another.
The Good Grief Trust: a charity run by the bereaved for the bereaved, offering 24 hour support lines for people of all ages affected by grief.
Sue Ryder provides palliative and neurological support, and has created video tutorials to go through key aspects of grief and how to support bereaved people.
It can be incredibly hard to have these conversations about death and bereavement and they might bring up memories of deaths you have experienced. Make sure you take time to look after yourself too whenever supporting a bereaved person.
You should also explore the resources above for support.