How employers can support childhood bereavement

Last week saw Child Bereavement awareness day in the UK. More than 100 children are bereaved of a parent every single day in the UK, many more will deal with the loss of a brother, sister, relative or loved one.

These issues can affect your workforce in many ways, whether current issues from bereavement and loss in the family, dealing with a bereaved dependent child or with historic issues resulting from former childhood bereavement.

Not dealing with childhood bereavement can have long term consequences. Unresolved issues with grief can create patterns that go into adulthood, contributing to issues with mental health, insomnia, stress and anxiety through to impacting physical health, say RedArc Nurses, who offers support for employees and individuals in times of bereavement, illness disability and trauma.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc Nurses says,

“Grief is very complex. People can feel guilty, overwhelmed or angry; they might experience anxiety, depression or panic attacks. Children need very specific support as they don’t have the same tools to cope that adults have. The impact of not getting the right support in childhood can have lifelong consequences. Our nurses deal with people every day who have issues that can be traced back to bereavement.”

Parents of grieving children are dealing with their own grief as well as trying to support their child’s grief. If they’re not coping, they too are likely to exhibit a change in behaviour. They may be withdrawn or conversely they may want to talk a lot more than usual; employers might notice a drop in productivity, change in performance, lack of punctuality or increased absence.

Support in the workplace

Employers can become a source of support for those suffering as a result of bereavement.

For parents dealing with a bereaved child, employees can be signposted to specialist charities that provide support for children dealing with bereavement, such as Winston’s Wish and Childhood Bereavement UK, and local charities can also help people closer to home.

Employers can also provide support via various avenues such as employee assistance programmes, bereavement counselling – which can often be provided alongside life assurance, and mental health support. This is important for all organisations, and particularly so for those working in high-risk environments such as the armed forces and police.  For example, RedArc’s telephone support is often included as an ‘add on’ benefit in an EAP

SMEs can belong to membership organisations that provide access to such support as part of membership.

There is no timescale to grief, some people may seem to cope very well in the early days and weeks, and need support months or even years down the line. It’s important that support is made available and that employers let their staff know it’s there. No one can predict when it might be needed.

Christine Husbands concludes:

“We can’t stress strongly enough how important it is to provide access to bereavement support for everyone, and particularly for children.

“When children get the support they need, this also supports parents. There are many practical and emotional issues to deal with for parents dealing with bereavement, and getting the right support for their children can be a huge burden lifted.

“Support offered in a timely manner not only helps in the here and now but has long-term benefits that will pay dividends throughout life.”