Bereavement: Emotion and Loss

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Bereaved children need support within school to deal with the loss of a loved one. This may be by being given opportunity to talk about their feelings or through practical activities. Naturally, each individual deals with bereavement in a different way, some may feel sad or angry, some may feel guilty about the death and others may withdraw and show signs of depression. The age of the child as well as their previous experiences, or lack of, can affect what they understand about death therefore it must be dealt with and prepared for accordingly. For instance, for those who have not dealt with loss before, starting with other kinds of loss is a good way in. With very young children this could be done effectively in circle time, using story, discussion and activities. You can talk about loss such as of toys or personal belongings and later develop this into a discussion about pets which may get lost or die, before finally talking about losing people who move on, move out or die. As a teacher we are more than likely able to empathise with children who are experiencing bereavement as this is probably something we, as adults, have experience. Consequently, it could be difficult to separate our own feelings and thoughts from the situation we are dealing with in order to console a child and reassure them that things will get better. It is important then to consider your own emotional response to the death and loss and reflect upon you feelings and how you deal with these situations in order to stop this from inhibiting your ability to help children in this situation. The parent/carer’s view and what they would like their child to understand about death is also important to consider as a teacher and it is important to make sure that you act on their wishes so that the message that you deliver reflects these views. However, whilst this is important, I also feel it is part of a teacher’s duty to help families understand the importance of children being appropriately...
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