Bereavement due to suicide

Support for children and young people

At the same time as parents are dealing with their own grief they are trying to help their children, so it is important for them to know about the various organisations that may be able to help and what help these can offer.
Children may deal with grief differently from adults. Quite commonly a child may switch from being very upset to wanting to go out to play as though nothing has happened. Suicide can deeply affect young people; some become depressed themselves.

National resources
Many people we talked to had young children or teenagers at the time their partner, husband, wife or other child had died. Some found help via the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

CAMHS promotes the mental health and psychological wellbeing of children and young people. It is part of the National Health Service and provides high quality, multidisciplinary mental health services to all children and young people with mental health problems.

CAMHS team members are likely to include child and adolescent psychiatrists, social workers, clinical psychologists, community psychiatric nurses, child psychotherapists, occupational therapists, and art, music and drama therapists.

Paula found help for her five year old daughter through a special bereavement unit at her local hospital. The staff gave Paula advice about what to say to her and how to tell her about the funeral. When her daughter was seven years old she was offered counselling by someone from the same unit.

Some organisations offer children’s ‘camps’ and group activities and others offer individual counselling for children, usually from the age of about seven. Some organisations offer both. A man we talked to thought that one of his daughters might benefit from individual counselling when she was older. He said that his daughter had a similar nature to his wife, who had been severely depressed and had died by suicide. Bipolar disorder had been mentioned as a possibility. The man was concerned about his daughter because he thought his wife’s illness might have had a genetic component.

Many people we talked to had found help for their children though Winston’s Wish, a charity for bereaved children. It helps children rebuild their lives after the death of a parent or sibling, and offers practical support and guidance to anyone concerned about a grieving child. There is special support for children who have been bereaved through suicide.

Winston’s Wish publishes a booklet especially for parents of children bereaved by suicide, called ‘Beyond the Rough Rock' supporting a child who has been bereaved by suicide’, written by Diana Crossley and Julie Stokes. The booklet helps with many aspects of bereavement, including how to explain suicide to young people, finding the right words, answering difficult questions and handling the different memories.

The organisation Cruse Bereavement Care also provides specialist support for children and young people (from age 5 to 18)on their Hope Again website.

Local resources

People also found support for their children through local children’s bereavement organisations. A national network of such organisations is accessible via The Childhood Bereavement Network.

Kate had found support through Jigsaw4u. This is a child-centered charity supporting children, young people and their families through loss and trauma. It also aims to empower children and young people to give them a voice in decision making. Support services are free for those living in South West London and Surrey.

Melanie had three young sons at the time that Simon died. Before she contacted Winston’s Wish she found support through CHUMS, a service which supports bereaved children and families in Bedfordshire after the death someone special in their lives has died. CHUMS supports children aged 3-18 years. A trained volunteer supports individual children and families. There are 3-day workshops for groups of children aged 3 to 12 years run on consecutive Saturdays, and evening workshops for children aged 12 - 18 years. Volunteers throughout the county come from a wide range of backgrounds, including nursing, social work, and teaching.

Some people found support for their children from SeeSaw, a charity providing grief and bereavement support for children in cases where a parent or sibling has died or is dying. Seesaw is based in Oxfordshire and supports for children up until the age of 18. The name SeeSaw reflects what their work with children is about. Grief is full of ups and downs and the difficulty is finding the balance. Through practical support and understanding, SeeSaw strives to reduce the distress of grieving children and enable families to work together through the difficult times before and after the death in the family.

Stuart’s son was only seven when Stuart’s ex-partner died. Stuart was disappointed that his son’s school did not pay for counselling for his son. However, his GP referred him for counselling.

Young people may decide that they do not want counselling. Jacqui’s teenage son was offered counselling by someone from Cruse, who specialised in counselling young people. He decided that he did not want counselling, perhaps because the woman was quite elderly. Jacqui thinks that it would have been better if her son had been seen by someone in their 20’s or 30’s who could talk about football and engage him in conversation (also see ‘Telling children and young people’).

Last reviewed July 2017.


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