National Bereaved Children’s week begins tomorrow at the DCC Civic offices

Children and the Grieving Process

Everyone has experienced grief at some time, death of someone close to us, a partner, parent or very close friend. It always brings a special kind of anguish.  So just imagine what it must be like for children. Sometimes we forget that children suffer and grieve too when someone close to them dies.

What goes through a child’s mind when they lose a parent? We simply can never know but it must feel like a massive hole is ripped open in your life. Perhaps they feel they are somehow to blame as grief and misplaced guilt are often willing bedfellows. Or the loss of a sibling, their assumed playmate, or grandparent, that person who loved them and made them feel special. Now they are feeling totally alone, unloved, maybe even unworthy of love. Life is unfair. Period. But a child doesn’t really understand this yet, and will probably not have the words to articulate the very complex feelings and emotions they are experiencing even if they do. They can end up hurting in silence, pretending that they are okay, because maybe they feel that’s what they’re meant to do, or what they see adults do. As adults we can at least understand that death comes to everyone, but as a young child this is a lesson that often comes in the future.

Also with teenagers, while they may act as if they are confident and on top of things they very often aren’t, and at a time when they are already facing so many changes and challenges in their lives the sudden loss can make them feel extra vulnerable. Often they keep loss or grief bottled up inside them and it can stay like this for years. Others act out and may express their feelings in unhelpful ways.

We cannot take the pain of bereavement away completely, but thankfully there is an organisation that can help in this very situation. They are called the Irish Childhood Bereavement Network (ICBN) and they are holding the third National Bereaved Children’s week beginning Thursday November 15. It starts with a National Conference of the ICBN at the Dublin City Council Civic Offices on Wood Quay on the 15th from 10 am to 3 pm. Further events will take place nationwide including Awareness Days in Cavan General Hospital, University Hospital Waterford, and St James’ in Dublin. The week aims to highlight the needs of bereaved children and how to support them through difficult periods of loss, and is aimed at those supporting bereaved children including parents, carers, teachers, sports groups, faith communities or friends in their local communities. It also coincides with Universal Children’s Day which is on November 20.

The key message being “Children Grieve Too.”

The ICBN is a membership organisation. The ICBN policy states that:

“Membership is open to professionals working directly with bereaved children, those who occasionally support them, and people interested in the area of children and young people’s loss. Members include social workers, teachers, community development groups, bereavement specialists, youth workers, palliative care professionals, researchers and policy stakeholders. As a member, you become part of a coordinated approach to ensuring all children have access to the bereavement support they need, when they need it. Always up-to-date on new research and practice tools, the ICBN is a national voice to influence relevant policy”.

Membership is €20 per annum and you can cancel at any time.

The ICBN is hosted by the Irish Hospice Foundation and funded together with Tulsa. for more info.

By Eoin Meegan