“A child can live through anything so long as he or she is told the truth”
21 February 2020
Supporting a bereaved child with the help of Penhaligon's Friends.
The emotional impact of a death is often acutely reflected in the young people left behind, whose lives can be changed beyond all recognition. Here, we draw on research conducted by Penhaligon’s Friends to put forward extracts from their ‘Remember Me Always’ handbook – an excellent resource for those supporting young people through a bereavement.
Firstly, an introduction to the great work of Penhaligon’s Friends; a charity in Cornwall that supports children and young people who have experienced the death of someone close to them. The charity was created when the lack of support services for young people became abundantly clear to related organisations. Now celebrating its 25th year, Penhaligon’s Friends has helped thousands of children to come to terms with life after the death of a loved one through training, support and outreach.
Through its ‘Remember Me Always’ handbook, Penhaligon’s Friends promotes the importance of being honest and of not trying to hide facts and funeral arrangements from children. The expertly-accumulated booklet guides a parent or guardian through the different stages of bereavement, beginning with some ‘First Thoughts’ and practical ideas for offering comfort and support following a death.
The booklet goes on to talk about the ‘Early Days’ of grief following the funeral and promotes the importance of physical touch and play. It also talks about how children can feel cold as a result of the change and may experience anxiety caused by grief. According to Penhaligon’s Friends, it is important to try to stick to pre-existing routines as much as is possible to help children feel comfortable and secure. There are also some useful suggestions for keeping memories alive, while helping a child to understand that the person is gone.
While the points set out by ‘Remember Me Always’ are impossible to accurately summarise, such is the depth of the research, taking an honest approach and involving children in the practical arrangements and decisions that may follow a death are common themes. Shying away from mentioning the deceased is not recommended, as this can confuse a child who may already be finding a new way of life difficult.
Crucially, ‘Remember Me Always’ does not try to provide a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, it covers in detail a number of different ways that children may react to the death of a significant person in their life. The handbook also acknowledges that while it is a tough time for a child, the support giver may also be finding things extremely difficult following the death of a loved one.
The booklet is visually-accessible, easy-to-understand and pinpoints tried-and-tested techniques for helping children. In these formative years, it can be extremely important to make the right choices at an often difficult time.
The ethos of the book is perhaps best encapsulated by its opening statement:
“A child can live through anything so long as he or she is told the truth and is allowed to share the natural feelings people have when they are suffering.” – Eda LeShan, American writer and counsellor.
Copies of ‘Remember Me Always’ are available on request for a donation to Penhaligon’s Friends of just £1 per handbook. If you work with young people or are the parent or guardian of a bereaved child and would like to know more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to order a supply.