Bereavement due to traumatic death

Support for children and young people

While parents are dealing with their own grief after the bereavement they are also trying to help their children, so they need to know about the various organisations that may be able to help and in what ways. Young 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. A traumatic death in the family can deeply affect young people and some become depressed themselves.

Bereavement counselling may be sought for children although some parents, like Sally, felt they could support the children themselves. When Matthew’s brother was killed in the Bali bombing the nieces and nephews, including a godson, were supported within their close family environment.

When the child has lost their own parent or sibling through a traumatic death, professional help may be advisable. Martin’s daughter was five years old when his wife was killed by a bus. His daughter developed behavioural problems. She had some counselling from a Behavioural Education Support Team (BEST). These teams bring together professionals from health, social care and education. They work with children aged 5-18. They aim to promote emotional well-being, positive behaviour and school attendance by identifying and supporting those with or those at risk of developing, emotional and behavioural problems. Martin’s teenage son was also devastated by his mother’s death and was also offered counselling but did not want it.
Children may also find 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 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.

Terri recalled that after her son was murdered, her young daughters, who were aged four and eight at the time, were ‘completely traumatised’. The police family liaison officers arranged for some private counselling. Six years later, when Terri’s eldest daughter was 14, she had more counselling through the NHS.  

Winston’s Wish is a national charity for children who have been bereaved. 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. Part of the Winston’s Wish website is for parents and carers. There is another section just for young people.
Some organisations offer children’s ‘camps’ and group activities and others offer individual support for children, usually from the age of about seven. Some organisations offer both. William found help for himself and his son via a charity called Care for the Family (see ‘Support received from Charities’).
The organisation Cruse Bereavement Care offers specialist support for children and young people through their website, Hope Again (previously RD4U).

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.

When Alison’s children died her surviving child was two years old. Her GP put her in touch with Jeremiah’s Journey, a Plymouth based charity that offers support and information to children and their families when someone special has died.
When Dorothy’s son was killed in an explosion she looked for support for her teenage grandson. Counselling was not easy to find and his school offered no support. However, Dorothy found a child bereavement counsellor, based at the local hospice, who offered to see her grandson and who was a wonderful help to him. Dorothy made a donation to the hospice for her help.

Last reviewed October 2015.

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