Bereavement: coping with grief after the death of a parent 

Carys’ father took his own life six years ago. In this video, Cary and her mother talk about how they have dealt with their loss.

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Transcript of Bereavement: coping with grief after the death of a parent

Telling Carys about her father's death was incredibly difficult,

but not because I'd really thought of the significance for her entire life.

It was a difficult thing to do because of the emotion involved,

but I think at the time it was just

"How do we find the words to explain what's happened

and how do we do it without completely falling apart?"

I had advice from the Child Bereavement Charity right at that very early stage.

I'd been put in touch with them by the hospital,

which was absolutely brilliant.

When we're thinking about explaining death to a child,

for a parent we need to remember

that it's natural for them to want to protect their child.

They need to be honest

because on the whole children do need to know the truth.

I just told her basically that we'd had to take Papa to hospital

because he'd breathed in some poison

and that unfortunately he'd breathed in so much poison

that his body had stopped working

and the doctors hadn't been able to fix him

and so he had died,

and that meant that he wouldn't be coming home again.

She told me what was wrong with Papa and why he did it now,

because when I was younger I wouldn't really understand.

And she tells me that he did love us

and that he did it because he had an illness.

She didn't at that point show very much emotion or interest at all.

Children aren't like adults in terms of how they are

when they have some bad and difficult news to manage.

They quite often take it on board, they feel upset,

but they move off the painful part of it quite quickly.

Children don't stay with very painful news for long.

It's not that they don't feel it, they do,

but they need to get on and do something else.

And lots of parents and lots of adults misinterpret that.

They think that the child wasn't upset.

Usually I asked, "Why didn't Papa tell us what he was doing?"

and "Why did he never say goodbye?"

Children learn about grieving from watching us, from watching adults.

That's how they learn.

I didn't try to stop myself from crying

because I think I felt it was important that she saw me showing emotion

and that she could see that it hurt me and it upset me

and it was difficult for me as well.

With something like suicide there's a lot of anger associated with it

because somebody has chosen to go off and leave you

and it doesn't feel very nice.

It makes me feel quite sad

and sometimes it makes me feel quite angry with Papa for what he did,

that he didn't tell us what he was going to do,

he didn't let us even try to stop it.

Most children worry a lot about feeling angry.

They can feel very angry for no apparent reason.

It's a natural reaction to someone you care about

not being there any more, dying.

I understand how that now he's not coming back... ever.

When you talk to a child about death or dying,

it's really important to use the words "dead", "dying", "death".

Even quite little children learn

that "dead" means that you're not there any more.

Be very specific, very honest and very real.

I think it's very important to tell children the truth.

In some ways it feels quite scary

and that you actually might be causing more pain and more hurt,

but actually it's quite a protective thing to do

because it helps them to feel safe,

it helps them to feel that they can trust you.

Children revisit grief at different stages and ages.

You have to keep answering often the same questions,

and as a parent that sometimes can feel frustrating

and feel as though you're constantly going back over things,

but if you think about it it's the way that they deal with everything.

Children ask questions to make sense of the world around them.

My mum got me loads of books to explain death

and she got me loads of books that I could write about my papa in, personal,

and that helped me quite a lot

because I could get my thoughts out and not worry about them any more.

With any grief, with a child,

there are lots and lots of different feelings that children will have.

They can feel very anxious. Anxiety is a big part of grief.

Your whole world's changed.

That can make a child behave in a very agitated way,

maybe not want to be left at all.

Children can feel very worried

that if one person's died in the family someone else could die.

When I was younger I was worried that Mum would die as well

and that I wouldn't have anybody to look after me any more.

Reassure them that they are safe, that they are loved,

that they will be looked after

and that other people aren't going to leave as well.

Grieving is about remembering, it's not about forgetting,

so we need to help children remember.

(Carys) I remember that he was funny.

When I did things that weren't really funny,

he still laughed anyway.

As a child you do not expect

that you're going to have to live your life without your mum or dad.

They're the one person that normally loves you warts and all.

You expect them to be there for you as you grow up.

He used to walk with me to nursery

before he went to work.

After work sometimes I'd spend time with him,

but it's just that I wanted to spend more time with him.

Being a single parent is quite a lonely thing

and in that kind of situation it's also scary for you as an adult.

Just because you're grown up doesn't mean that things aren't scary.

So to have that support, to know that it's there at the end of a phone,

that you can ring up and ask for advice

is so reassuring and helpful.


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