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Think adult-think child! Why should staff caring for dying adults ask what the death means for children in the family?

Journal title
British medical bulletin
Publication year
Aynsley-Green, S. A.

Introduction: Bereaved children and young people in the UK are ‘hidden mourners’. Sources of data: Review of primary and secondary evidence on childhood bereavement. Area of agreement: Children experience grief that varies according to the circumstance of death and their cognitive ability. Voluntary organizations can be supportive, but provision is patchy and vulnerable to austerity. Areas of concern: Adult-centric denial of the importance and long-term consequences of childhood grief; uncertainty in how best to relate to bereaved children in faiths and in schools. Growing points: Increased awareness of the immediate and long-term consequences of childhood bereavement; even young children can experience loss through death. Areas timely for research: Better knowledge of the numbers of affected children; longitudinal data to track experiences and outcomes; measuring effectiveness of different approaches; identifying risk factors for early intervention in complicated or prolonged grief; the importance of faith and rituals around death; mapping the provision of services to monitor the impact of austerity. Recommendations: ‘Think adult-think child’ means that all staff caring for dying adults should take responsibility for asking what the death means for the children in the family, with schools, primary care and faith organizations having protocols and expertise available to support grieving children; recent catastrophes expose need for agencies to have management plans that focus on vulnerable children and young people.

Research abstracts