There are a range of definitions for the word ‘Bereavement’ but, in essence, it refers to the experience of losing someone (or something), and describes the period of time after a loss, especially after the death of a loved one, when people grieve and mourn.
Mourning looks very different across a range of cultures and it is important to try to understand this when working with children and young people who are going through this process (you can find more information regarding cultural differences within our resource community).
Because children and young people struggle to manage the enormity of grief all at once, their bereavement ‘period’ can appear shorter. However, this does not mean that they have dealt with the bereavement, and the effects can manifest in different ways throughout the course of their lives.
Although experiencing grief is a normal part of a person's life, nothing about it will feel normal. Over time, things will get better. This is known as ‘uncomplicated bereavement’.
However, on some occasions, the feelings that are experienced as part of the grieving process can stay with a person for an extended period of time and they will find it difficult to move through the stages of grief. This is known as ‘complicated bereavement’.
If a child or young person that you are working with is struggling, you may wish to consider the following:
- Support them to look after their physical health as much as their emotional health
- Be patient and don't set time limits on bereavement
- Help them to build up a support network of family and friends