The day has been organised by the Irish Childhood Bereavement Network (IBCN) to coincide with Universal Children’s Day and will be highlighted throughout Ireland. The ICBN is a hub for those working with bereaved children, young people and their families in Ireland. It is funded by Tusla, the Child and family Centre and The Irish Hospice Foundation.
Andy Moore was 41-years-old when he died in October 1956. Reflecting back on the death of his father, and the impact it had on his life, Christy said, “I was 11-years-old and the eldest of six children. I’m 70 now yet clearly remember the shock and trauma of that day. Each of the six of us carried that shock and trauma through our lives. No one ever spoke to us about his death. It was not in the culture of the times.”
Adding his support to the first National Bereaved Children’s Awareness Day, Christy said children need to be properly supported to deal with their grief. “I believe that any child suffering such trauma would benefit greatly from supportive intervention,” he added.
Every day in Ireland approximately 80 people die. Research has shown that by the age of nine, 2.2 per cent of children have lost a parent and 28 per cent have lost a grandparent.
National Bereaved Children’s Awareness Day is aimed at those supporting bereaved children; their parents or carers, teachers, sports groups, faith communities or friends in their local communities.
Brid Carroll, Chair of the ICBN said that the majority of bereaved children will process their grief if they have a strong support network of family, friends and their local community. However in order to support a bereaved child, that natural network needs the correct information to do so. This includes an understanding of how children grieve, how they understand death and loss, their developmental responses to loss and when to seek outside support.
Offering advice she said, “To promote resilience in children following the death of a parent, sibling or other person significant in their life, it is important that parents provide time for the child to express their feelings and talk out the questions they may have about the loss. Open communication about the death is key. Parents know their children best and can support them by creating quiet moments to reflect and talk about the loss.
“The death or loss of a parent can create insecurity for a child and leave them confused and unsure how life will be in the future. As adults we need to support them in ways that are appropriate to their age. This involves answering their questions; giving opportunities to remember the person who has died; reassuring that routine and activities can continue and allowing them to express their feelings about what has occurred. We should remember too that a parent may have their own grief and so will require support and understanding from other family members, friends and their own communities.”
She said it is very important to give children the opportunity and choice to be involved in some of the rituals surrounding death.
“Such inclusion can allow the child create memories and have open discussion around the loss that has occurred in their lives. It is important that the key adults in the child’s life can allow this to occur.”
For information on supporting bereaved children and events being held for National Children’s Bereavement Awareness Day go to www.childhoodbereavement.ie