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Separation and loss

It is estimated that every 30 minutes a child or young person in the UK is bereaved of a parent – that’s 55 a day, 20,000 children every year facing the future without a parent. Over a quarter of a million of children aged between 5 and 15 will have experienced the death of a parent – that’s 3% of all those of that age. 5% will have experienced the death of a parent or of a sibling. Around 10% will have lost a parent, carer, close friend or close relative – that’s almost a million of our young people touched by bereavement (see www.winstonswish.org.uk). Many pupils who have experienced loss do not seek help at school and their wishes should be paramount, they might prefer to seek and receive support from agencies outside school or through less formal support from friends and family. However, some pupils appreciate the mutual support that a small focus group can provide.

The pupils for whom this small focus group is intended are those whose responses to grief or separation are causing particular concern, and where pupils express a desire for additional support. Pupils who have experienced a traumatic loss will present in many ways, some will show personality changes, withdrawing, detaching and refusing to engage with activities they previously enjoyed, others may be overwhelmed with anger and frustration, behaving unpredictably and/or indulging in risk-taking behaviours, while yet others will block out reflection by keeping busy at all times.

As there may be overlaps between the issues dealt with in this topic and in the small focus group topic ‘Managing change’, practitioners will need to ensure that the two topics are developed to complement each other, and use clear selection criteria and processes to support pupils in deciding which would best meet their needs.

Schools will wish to carefully consider issues of grouping for this topic. In general terms it will often be appropriate to group pupils who have had similar experiences.

Practitioners may wish to consider involving a co-facilitator, such as a mental health practitioner, in planning and/or delivery of the topic. Input from local or national bereavement support organisations could also be planned as appropriate.

This topic is designed to help young people to:

  • explore feelings associated with separation and loss
  • talk about experiences and explore the stages of grief
  • develop supportive networks and know where and how to access further support.