‘It’s vital we involve youngsters in how to deal with their grief’

Sarah Owens who will use her experience to help teachers help pupils deal with bereavement
Sarah Owens who will use her experience to help teachers help pupils deal with bereavement

Local teachers are to receive bereavement training to help children deal with the loss of someone close to them.

Sarah Owens, an adult nursing lecturer from the University of Salford, will use her expertise to help teachers recognise when children are grieving, the different types of loss young people can experience, and how teachers can support those children in the classroom.

Sarah, who previously worked for 18 years in a hospice, will provide the training to teachers from across the region at Hawkley Hall High School.

She says providing this kind of training for teachers is vital, as most schools will have at least one child who has experienced the death of someone close, with a significant proportion of children experiencing the death of a parent by the age of 16.

She said: “As more parents work, their children will often have a much closer relationship with their grandparents who may provide care while the parents work, so the death of a grandparent can have a much greater impact on a child than it might have done a generation ago.

“Children spend more waking hours in school than they do at home, so it’s really important that teachers are aware of the signs they should look out for, and ways in which they can support a grieving child.”

Children might express their grief within the classroom by changes in their behaviour, such as becoming withdrawn or through displays of anger.

Sarah says teachers are able to provide support through a range of methods themselves and children do not necessarily need to be referred for counselling in the beginning.

They are able to offer children options such as enabling them to talk to the teacher they feel most comfortable speaking to about how they might be feeling, not necessarily the school staff member who has an official pastoral role.

It is also important that teachers recognise the different types of loss that children can experience, and that it is not solely linked to bereavement.

Before someone dies, a child may already be experiencing losses such as difficulties at home as a result of someone being ill, which can also lead to children behaving in different ways.

The sessions are being provided at Hawkley Hall but primary and secondary school teachers from across the North West are invited to take part.

Sarah said: “It’s all about providing children with options. For example, if the class is making mother’s day cards and the teacher knows there is one child who has recently lost their mother, rather than taking them out of that session, one approach is to ask the child what they would like to do.

“They may wish to still be involved in the card making and may choose to make a card for mum or even for another family member. It’s vital that they are asked what they would like to do.”

Any schools interested in taking part should contact Sam Lloyd or Suzanne Chamberlain on 01942 403 050 for further details.