Every 22 minutes in the UK, a parent of dependent children dies, leaving about 41,000 bereaved children each year. Many more are bereaved of a grandparent, sibling, friend or other significant person, and, sadly, around 12,000 children die in the UK each year. Within our school community there will almost always be some recently bereaved children who are struggling with their own situation – or sometimes the entire school community is impacted by the death of a member of staff or a pupil. We would hope to not encounter such circumstances, but the statistical inevitability of such an occurrence implies the necessity of having a Bereavement Policy in place, in order that we might be proactive, rather than reactive, when responding to these sensitive situations. Empathic understanding in the familiar and secure surroundings of school may be all the bereavement support some children, or staff, require, though referral to more specialist support should be a consideration where the impact of grief is more complex.
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Please contact the school office if you need any extra support or advice.0208 573 2622
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Books on Bereavement
John Burningham (Puffin, 1998, ISBN 0099-43408-3)
Designed to stimulate discussion rather than to tell a story, the book has a series of scenes of a little girl and her grandad, with comments from each or both of them. At the end, she is shown staring at his empty chair, without comments. The book allows the adult to direct discussion about not only the good things that the child remembers, but also the not so happy memories.
GRANDAD, I'LL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU
De Bode and Broere ( Evans / Helping Hands, 1997, ISBN 0237-51755-8)
A picture book about loss and memories, and potentially a good stimulus to talk about a bereavement.
WHEN DINOSAURS DIE
L & M Brown (Little, Brown, 1996, hb, ISBN 0-316-10197-7)
Charming busy anthropomorphic pictures of dinosaurs illustrate topics and questions and a range of answers about death: Saying Goodbye; Customs and beliefs about death; Why do people die? What does "dead" mean?. It is also quite acute psychologically, acknowledging that disbelief, anger, fear, and sadness are common feelings when someone dies. Expensive, but attractive and appealing to children.
Sheila and Kate Isherwood (Oxford, ISBN 0-19-272368-5)
A girl's grandfather has died and looking back over the happy times they enjoyed together helps her to cope with the loss. Very specific episodes and illustrations give it a life-like feel. Sensible and sound if a little stereotyped in its pictures of family life, it could help children to think about how to remember someone.
Jonathan London and Sylvia Long (Chronicle Books, 1994, ISBN 0-8118-0505-0)
Liplap the rabbit's grandma has died, and his mother tells him of the rabbit legend that "long ago, when the first rabbits died, they became stars in the sky. And to this day, they come out at night and watch over us. And they remind us that our loved ones shine forever in our hearts… When Liplap asks if a star might be his grandma, his mother replies, "I think you could wish it were." Could be considered "twee" and lacking honest engagement with the subject,
Posy Simmons (Jonathan Cape, 1987, ISBN 0-2240-2448-5)
When Fred the cat dies his owners, Nick and Sophie, attend his funeral and learn about his secret life as a famous singer. The story raises the idea of celebrating a life in a good-humoured and touching way, with entertaining pictures and not much text.
Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen (Belitha Press, 1997, ISBN 1-85561-760-9)
full title: Beginnings and endings with lifetimes in between – a beautiful way to explain life and death to children. This book places human life and death firmly in the natural world, and the tone is quietly reflective: "All around us everywhere, beginnings and endings are going on all the time.It may be sad, but it is the way of all things. For plants. For people. For birds”. Whilst not exactly comforting, it tells the truth, puts death in perspective, Don't let the rather murky cover put children off - it belies the attractive illustrations within of plants and creatures, alive and dead.
BADGER'S PARTING GIFTS
Susan Varley (Collins Picture Lions, pb, 1992)
An old favourite, a charming illustrated book in which a very old and much loved badger dies. The forest animals gather and reminisce about the important part Badger played in their lives, and as time passes memories of Badger make them smile. These memories were different for each of them, including very recognisable things like a favourite recipe or showing someone how to knot a tie - Badger's "parting gifts.
WE LOVE THEM
Martin Waddell (Walker Books,1990, ISBN 0-7445-7256-8)
Death is seen very much as part of life in this nicely illustrated story of life in the country, which conveys the idea that life goes on and that old creatures give way to young ones. But it is a bit too matter of fact about loss - barely is the old dog dead than the children have found a new one, is there an implicit message that dead pets (and people?) are easily replaced.
Martin Waddell (Macdonald Young Books, pb, ISBN 0- 7500-0307-3)
Bill's grandma is a widow, and he learns about her "other Bill" by looking through her photo album with her. A bit too stereoptypically suburban and middle class for general appeal perhaps. Some like its ordinariness, gentleness and factual accuracy, and couldn't fault what it had to say about death and living on in memories and in the family.
I'LL ALWAYS LOVE YOU
H Wilhelm (Hodder & Stoughton, 1985)
A touching story of the love between a little boy and his dog, who have grown up together. When the dog dies, the boy says that, although he is very sad, it helps that he used to tell the dog "I'll always love you" every night. An opportunity to discuss the importance of telling how you feel. Aimed at 4 to 7-year-olds and delightfully illustrated.
I FEEL SAD
(Wayland, ISBN 0-7052-1406-6)
Not specifically about death, but about different ways of expressing sadness. Could be a useful opening for a conversation about a bereavement, or about coping with feelings.
A BIRTHDAY PRESENT FOR DANIEL
Juliet Rothman (Prometheus Books, ISBN 1-57392-054-1)
This story of a little girl whose brother has died is intended for children aged 8-12. "A difficult subject handled very well and movingly",