9th October, 2014

Dealing with childhood bereavement is vital, says Minister

Minister for Children launches a guide to help adults support bereaved children

Minister for Health James Reilly

Members of Grange Gymnastics with Dr James Reilly at the Irish Childhood Bereavement Conference at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

First published:Mon, Oct 6, 2014

Dealing with childhood bereavement is vital, but it hasn’t been given the sort of attention it deserves, Dr Reilly said 28 per cent of children had lost a grandparent by the age of nine, while over 2 per cent had lost a parent. There was no magic formula to make it easier but “children need adults to help them understand the mixture of emotions that accompanies the passing of a loved one”.Failing to deal with bereavement could have an impact on children’s education and mental health. “Counselling and support services are key to helping these children cope with their grief,” Dr Reilly said.

The Childhood Bereavement Care Pyramid is aimed at parents, teachers, family members and health professionals and was developed by the Irish Children’s Bereavement Network. It will be introduced to doctors’ surgeries, health services and community settings in the coming months.

Dr Reilly launched the guide at the first Irish conference on childhood bereavement in Dublin Castle.

“I truly believe that it will be of invaluable help to many, as it sets out the child’s needs and the appropriate levels of support and services required to address those needs,” he said.

The conference was organised by the Irish Children’s Bereavement Network and explored issues such as the role social networking sites play in young people’s grief.

Facebook impact

UK-based counselling psychologist Elaine Kasket told delegates that social networking sites such as Facebook were having a significant impact on modern mourning, but bereavement counselors often lacked awareness of this phenomenon. “There can be a lot of fear and concern about what it means when people are mourning and memorialising friends and loved ones on Facebook,” she said.

“But I want to really highlight the fact that there is no research evidence to support that fear at all. In fact, it’s the contrary. All the research and clinical evidence that’s coming out is that social networking sites like Facebook can be tremendously helpful and facilitation in the grieving process.”

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