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.

Bereavement and coronavirus

During this time, you might have questions about how you can support young members through bereavement and loss due to coronavirus (Covid-19). Covid-19 is having an impact on all of us, and young people will be affected in different ways.

You may be leading online guiding at the moment - regular virtual meetings can help with routine during this time and be really reassuring. Follow our advice on getting started with online guiding and virtual meetings.

Before social distancing was introduced, your response to supporting a young member may have been different. However please ensure to follow all government social distancing and lockdown guidance during this time.

Your role

As a trusted adult and volunteer,  you’re a safe adultwho 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 A Safe Space guidelines and policies.

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.

Girlguiding programme resources

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.

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/carers support during these difficult times. We’ve gathered some resources that might help these conversations.

Coronavirus specific support

Childhood bereavement network: have created an informative video to help explain coronavirus to children and a search tool for local bereavement services.

Cruse bereavement care: have great guidance on what to say during conversations and offer a freephone number to call if you need more support. Cruse also have lots of help and guidance for parents for talking to young children and teenagers about death on their website.

The British Psychological Society: have guidance in speaking with children about coronavirus.

British Heart Foundation: have created an animated video for young people following a loss.

For 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.

Your wellbeing

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.