We've learnt first hand how important bereavement support or lack of it - is in schools to a child, after Lottie went through many different stages of the grieving process through her primary and secondary years.
At the age of 3 and a half Lottie lost her Dad to melanoma cancer - He was able to spend 3 and a half precious years with Lottie before the stage 4 cancer took his life.
Todays anniversary is a day to remember and celebrate Ade's life. I took lots of photos & videos of him those last few years and they now hopefully build up a picture for Lottie of what her Dad was like.
Today I couldn't be prouder as her Mum & how far she has come in the last 11 years in how she talks about her journey with grief.
A few years ago, she spoke confidently with Mark Lemon ( ambassador for child bereavement charity Winstons Wish ) about grief on his podcast Grief is My Superpower & has since spoken out about some of the ways she has coped with her journey with grief on BBC News round and BBC Bitesize. Hopefully helping other children who might be in the same situation of loosing a loved one.
Lottie came home from school a few weeks ago saying she had to do a speech for part of her English work. She originally was going to do the speech on feminism ( go Lottie 🙌🏻 ) but it seemed a lot of the girls were also covering this topic, so instead she decided to do it on bereavement support in schools.
A few days later she read us her speech. To say we were blown away was an understatement .. I thought I'd share it here so you can read it too.
Over to you Lottie...
Did you know that the parent of children under the age of 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK? This equates to around 23,000 a year. This is such a significant amount, yet I do not think I have every had a single lesson solely based on grief and bereavement. So today I am going to speak to you about why I think grief and bereavement should be taught about and supported in schools. If so, many young people go through this why should we not learn about it before we must experience it. We are forced to learn about periods yet not grief, that does not seem right to me. Does it you? Now do not get me wrong I am not saying schools do nothing, it is said that grief is included in the PSHE curriculum but has only been added recently and is not compulsory. Yet 72% of people have been bereaved in the last 5 years.
Bereavement by definition is when someone is deprived of a close relative or friend through death, which is something nearly everyone goes through in their lifetime. I personally have been through grief, my Dad died when I was young just before I started primary school. In my first year the school were very aware of my situation, but as the years went on people became less sensitive. One year when I was around the age of 9, I remember having an RE lesson and we were learning about Buddhism and there was a dead body displayed on the board. This triggered my grief, and I began to cry, my teacher’s reaction to this was to say, ‘my daughter’s Dad died, she doesn’t cry all the time’. I remember feeling alone and confused as to why no one understood how I felt. I realise now that if you have not been through grief or bereavement its hard to empathise with. This is one of the reasons I think we should learn about it at a young age.
The government have tried to put in education to do with grief into the curriculum but none of it is compulsory, we are too busy learning about Shakespeare to learn about something that is almost guaranteed to affect us at some point in our lives. I believe that we should be educated on grief from as young as the age of five, obviously it would not be in depth, but anything is better than nothing. Throughout primary and secondary school, I think we should develop an understanding of how grief effects people and ways to deal with it. For example, we should be taught about how it can take up your emotions and make you feel empty, or how grief does not just last a year it can last from 5-10 years or even someone’s entire life. Young people should also be able to support friends who have experienced grief because 1 in 29 people from the age of 5-16 have been bereaved of a parent or sibling.
On the other hand, I believe that children who have been bereaved should be fully supported in schools because from my experience there are not many facilities in place that support children going through grief. I know that schools try to provide one to one support, peer support and book resources, but how accessible are these things. When I was in primary school, I had no support whatsoever through my grief and at times when I was at my worst felt completely alone. What I think people need to understand is that grief does not last a year of school if anything it can get worse as years go on. I remember when I was around the age of 8-10, I was very sensitive and hated the words ‘blood’, ‘death’ and ‘dead’ at the time I did not understand why but I can see now that I had begun to understand the death of my Dad and my emotions became stronger. Schools should be aware of the fact that everyone grieves at different paces and there is no clean-cut guide to grief and bereavement.
I have picked this topic because I really care about other people like me who have had to go through grief in the dark. Even just talking to you now has a small impact as it means everyone in this room now might see this issue differently. 45,000 young people are bereaved of a parent or sibling every single year in the UK, and this statistic has increased by 12% since the outbreak of COVID19 which would mean there are even more vulnerable young people going through tough times alone. Think how this could affect you and you could be completely unprepared. How would you feel knowing you could have known more? We need to be prepared for what life could throw at us, and grief and bereavement is one of those important things we should have the right to be educated on and supported through.
... Lottie Dukes
Find the link to Winstons Wish & support in schools here