Bereavement means ‘to leave desolate or alone through death’, with grief meaning ‘deep and intense sorrow’. Sorrow, anguish, and solitude are particularly toxic for children and young people.
But they are the ‘forgotten mourners’ today where death is the great taboo subject. None should doubt the challenge – a child loses a parent through death every 22 minutes; 1 in 29 are bereaved of a parent, brother or sister; over 252,000 5-16 year olds are affected in England alone; 78% of 11-16 year olds experience at least one of their close relatives or friends dying.
The death of someone close affects their emotional, spiritual, physical and mental wellbeing, sometimes with major consequences throughout life.
Children, young people and their families know what they want, and how specialist childhood bereavement services can give benefit.
They need information and education on what death means; encouragement to talk about how they feel, to understand and express their grief; meet others and share experiences, with opportunities to remember and access to support. Despite this, support is patchy nationwide with countless children and families unable to access it when they need it.
The enormity of unresolved grief in adults bereaved as children has also been exposed, with people in their 80s and 90s reporting how they had never come to terms with the loss of a loved one.
Bereavement is a fundamental human experience, and it’s time we realized that children and young people are all too frequently exposed, unsupported, to the impact of grief.
Are we doing the best we can for them, and if not what should be done?
Sir Al Aynsley-Green
We’ve been listening to bereaved children for 26 years. Winston’s Wish is steeped in the stories of bereaved children and young people, and the voices we hear every day.
Many of those children are adults now. They, at least, got the chance. But there are millions of adults whose stories of loss are untold, unheard – whose grief stays silent inside.
Have their lives been defined by their grief, or simply shaped by it? Perhaps for better – perhaps for worse. The passage of time might have healed some wounds; memory confounds; life does go on.
Maybe there has been a time to acknowledge difficult feelings; to say the unsaid; to forgive but not to forget – to remember.
So, can we come together as a community and connect the bereaved children of the past so that they can begin to share their experiences and support each other? We think we can.
Can we harness our shared passion to make it better for children now, to double the numbers of children we support, to pioneer a 21st century service fit for the digital age? We think we can.
If we do it together, the sky is the limit. Please join us on our journey.
Fergus Crow, CEO