Who helps children when a parent or sibling dies?

This is a guest post from Phonenix Bereavement Support as part of my promotion of charities for free on my blog during June 2012.

Ben* was devastated when his Dad died. It was so sudden. He went out in
the morning to work, but didn’t come home. His motorbike had skidded off
the road. Ben’s Mum couldn’t stop crying, and his little brother kept asking
him, ‘When’s Daddy coming home?’

None of us like to think about death, especially our own, but for some children
and young people death comes into their family very unexpectedly and very
suddenly, like in the story above. What happens to children if one of their
parents or a brother or sister dies? Their whole world is turned upside down.
Their sense of security is lost. How many fairy stories are there, where a child
loses a parent? This is because it is one of our worst fears, our most primal
fears. Even when we are adults and a parent dies we can feel abandoned,
lost and alone. We can feel angry, bitter, sad or all of these at the same time.
For children and young people, this swirl of emotions is very confusing. They
wonder, ‘Am I normal?’ ‘Why do I feel like this?’ And often, the surviving
parent or carer is so lost in their own grief that they find it very difficult to
support their child.

Back at school, Ben*discovered that his teachers didn’t know how to talk to
him. They had told other children that Ben would be very sad and might not
want to talk about it. Ben found that no one spoke to him at all, because they
didn’t know what to say.

Children and young people who have lost a parent or sibling can find school
a very difficult place. Thought it is hard to believe, some are bullied precisely
because of their bereavement. Many of them find it hard to cope, and start
behaving in ways they would never have done before. They get in trouble at
school, and can even be excluded. They may try drugs, early sex and alcohol,
because it is a way of forgetting or of feeling close to others.

Eventually Ben heard of somewhere he could go for help. He was beginning to
think that nobody understood, that nobody felt the same as him and that he
was alone. So when he heard about Phoenix Bereavement Support he got in

Phoenix Bereavement Support helps children, young people and their families when someone close dies.

We offer group support and social events to help
bereaved children rebuild their confidence and learn how to face the future
with hope. We also offer one to one support for those who need it most.

Phoenix Bereavement Support receives no financial help from the government
or local council so we depend on our community to support us. To donate and
help children like Ben* please call Tina or Lorraine on 01432 264555 or email
info@phoenixbereavement.org. You can also like our page on Facebook or
follow us on Twitter @linda_phoenix. Thank you for your help.

*name changed for illustration

I am talking about the dead.  Where do they go?

I was brought up as a Roman Catholic.  I think Catholics do death well and it is always good to have the concept of an afterlife to fall back on.

Things get trickier when you start questioning it all in your teens and onwards.

My mum died in 2009 so the grief is much less raw these days.  Through Penny over at the Alexander Residence blog and her amazing Little Legacy blog hop, I have reflected on my relationship with my mum and the not always easy life she led.  I have more peace than I did.

Yesterday, I looked around to see if there were signs of Mum.  We went off to an Army Cadet open day.  Not my idea of a fun day apart from the fact I am a mum and knew my boys would love it, all three of them lol.

Mum would tell me that the spirit of a person lives on.  What does that mean?

Does it mean that whilst the boys went on a climbing wall, I focussed on the tombola and bric-a-brac stalls?  Very much my mother’s daughter both in buying yet more clutter and also in paying over the odds feeling sorry for the organisers that few people had turned up.

Does it mean that I was surprised on winning on the tombola that the prize was some Tweed?  You know, Tweed the perfume my Mum used to wear when I was little.  Or does it mean that when I have these moments where I feel mum is playing tricks on me, I remember that Peter Kay comedy sketch where he pokes fun at the bereaved.  “You see that packet of quavers, that’s him”.

Does it mean that as we went to a certain town to do some shopping, I remembered how Mum used to like the houses there.? Not palatial houses by any means but houses she could not realistically aspire to.

Is it when I hear myself saying things she would say and I swore I never would?

Dad and I had our usual fish and chip lunch date on Friday.  I was telling him that Mum gave up smoking one Mother’s Day.  I had bought her a plantpot and on a whim filled it with sweets.  She was ill in bed with flu or similar.  She went without a cigarette all day.  She told me that she had always said that if she gave up for one whole day, she would not smoke again.  Instead, she replaced cigarettes with humbugs.  We worked out this was probably exactly 30 years ago.

When I wrote my mother’s eulogy, the only bit my brother put in was that at the age of 38, Mum went on the Town Hall stage and sang some cheeky song all dressed up in a wild fashion.  Mum always said I was a slow starter but here I am at 43 trying to get a burlesque calendar off the ground.  Mum’s showtime routine was for charity and the calendar will be too.

Does that mean her spirit lives on?  I would like to think so.




Run Jump Scrap

Getting advice from a probate solicitor can help as we face our own mortality.

Love and pain

If we are loved and have loved, we have had an amazing life right there. However almost through that very loving, we are guaranteeing ourselves abject emotional pain in the future.

Death is an inevitable part of everyday life and when you see someone looking miserable and you feel like telling them to cheer up it is good to remember that they might be recently bereaved.

We can debate whether it is more challenging to lose someone suddenly in an accident perhaps or after a short or long illness. What is clear is that when someone says goodbye forever it hurts.


What can make grief worse is when family members torn apart by feelings of guilt and anger start tearing each other apart in the aftermath of the death.

Just when you are feeling immobilized by your feelings, there are things that need your attention such as arrangements regarding the deceased person’s personal possessions, bank accounts and share certificates. It can be very overwhelming particularly when you are also trying to arrange the right type of funeral for your special person.

Getting  advice from a probate solicitor

Advice from an expert solicitor can come in very handy to avoid major financial problems and mental stress in the future.

How much do you know about probate law? Isn’t it a good idea to get advice now and to prevent future problems for your family? Having these things in place can make things easier in the long run. We have all heard of and/or personally experienced the horror stories where issues around intestacy and wills destroy family relationships.

Probate solicitors at Coles offer the first meeting free of charge and the service can be delivered through any channel that is most convenient for you such as online, by telephone, in their offices or in your own home.

Is your child upset about Zayn leaving One Direction? Our new agony aunt Molly Coddle has some words of advice for you.


There is no doubt fans feel a real sense of loss.

What can you say to your child if they are devastated by the One Direction News?

1. Zayn leaving One Direction as a voluntary act. This is what he either wants or needs.

“I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight,” he said in a statement posted on the band’s Facebook page.

If you really care about the band members, wish him well as he continues to his next chapter.

2. The band is staying together. One Direction might now to be Four-fifths direction but the band will play on.

3. It is a sign of strength to express feelings. Crying is an OK thing to do.

4. Seeking support is also a great thing to do in life. Encourage your child to reach out for your support and that of peers.

5. It will be a very lucky parent who has not experienced a loss of some sort in their lives. Empathise with your child and show them that you do understand.

6. Zayn leaving One Direction has led to negative things happening as people respond to the news including encouragement of self-harm. Make sure you are clued up on this and remain vigilant. Don’t be afraid to have a discussion about such issues. The MIND charity has helpful information about self-harm.

7. Encourage your child to find a balance between being online and getting out in the fresh air or doing other things. It could so easily become obsessive to sit taking part in the outpouring of grief online so a good balance now is even more important than usual.

8. Ask your child directly what would make them feel better and how you can help.

9. Ask your child what might happen next? Solo careers, changes of direction (no pun intended)) reunions in time – the world really has not ended. Gently remind them that there was a life before One Direction. Zayn leaving One Direction may in time be shown to be the best thing for himself, the band and others.

10. If the grieving behaviour continues or you have concerns, teach your child the right way to live life by reaching out for the support that is available for your parenting and for their mental health.

When Culture Club split up for the first time, I was a teenager. It was very upsetting and especially as Boy George was clearly not well or engaging in the best behaviours. Decades later Boy George is still alive and the Culture Club dramas continue. Life really does go on.

My next upset was when Freddie Mercury died. I can still cry about this all these years later and that is OK. I celebrate his life and music. I share it with my children. I try to incorporate some of his wisdom into my own life in a very small way.

As for my daughter, she is happy about the One Direction news as she has never liked the group. She has never being one to follow the crowd and I guess in that she is like Zayn although I have no intention of sharing that analogy with her.

How do you help your child cope in situations like this?