For Professionals

Girl drawing on her memory box

FiG offers guidance, practical tips and bereavement training for professionals who work with children.

Families in Grief recognise how difficult it can be to know the best way to respond to a bereaved child.

The training is tailored to your needs as a school or workplace.

If you’d like more information on this please click here to visit the Our Work section of this website.

Here are some general pointers for professionals who work with children from our sister charity ‘Penhaligon’s Friends’:

Having recognised that bereavement is at the root of the problem it is important to explain this to the parents. This alone can open communications allowing the child to talk about how they feel and enabling the parent to support the child. In this conversation it’s important to know what the child has been told about the death, and whether or not they are happy for the child to be told the truth.

 Talk to the Child

This will express your understanding and care. Use language appropriate to their cognitive age and development. Reassure them that they will feel better in time.

 Listen to the Child

It is rare for a child to ask questions of a doctor or other health professional – adults usually ask on their behalf. Be open with the child, not just adults and encourage questions.

 Encourage the child to express themselves

Help the parents realise the importance of listening and being supportive rather than being critical or dismissive. Children can be helped to express themselves and their feelings in a variety of ways e.g. drawing or painting.

 Encourage the Parents

Remembering the good times spent with the person who died will help the child. For example they could get out old photographs and mementoes

 When to Refer On

If the child is displaying any of the following characteristics:

  • Persistent difficulty talking about the dead parent
  • Persistent un-containable aggression
  • Persistent symptoms of anxiety shown by a refusal to go to school and extreme clinging to the surviving parent
  • Persistent somatic complaints
  • Persistent sleep difficulties and/or nightmares after a year
  • Persistent changes in eating patterns
  • Marked long-term social withdrawal
  • School difficulties or a serious decline in academic performance
  • Persistent self-blame or guilt
  • Self –destructive behaviour or desire to die: in this case a child should be offered individual work immediately regardless of how long ago the death occurred.

Characteristics taken from Worden W (1996) pg 147-150 ‘Then Now Always’ Stokes J