"Loss affects us all. It could be loss through the death of a loved one, through parental separation, the death of a pet or even moving house and/or school.  We all go through loss, it’s an inevitable part of life and it is really hard.  This series of blogs will help us to understand loss a little better, so that we can support our children and young people and help them grow through their time of loss."

Matt Brown, Founder and National Director,  Reality Youth Project

Here are some statistics that put loss into perspective:

A parent of children under 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK; around 23,600 a year. This equates to around 111 children being bereaved of a parent every day. 1 in 29 5-16 year olds has been bereaved of a parent or sibling - that's a child in every average class. (Aug 2018)

According to recent divorce statistics, 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. 102,007 couples divorced in 2017 (the most recent year for which official statistics are currently available). Almost half involve children under the age of 16.

What is loss?

Loss is a part of life - We will all face loss at some point if we haven’t already. At Reality Youth Project we run a six week, small group course on loss that we deliver in secondary schools. So many of the young people who have attended over the years, have thought that they were the only ones going through loss. At the end of the course almost all of them say that one of the things that has helped them most, is that they have realised they are not the only ones.

Loss affects everyone differently – just because we don’t experience something that someone else does or says we should, doesn’t mean we are odd. We are all unique and of course will deal with loss differently and that is ok. There is no right or wrong way to deal with loss and again sometimes knowing that can be incredibly liberating for the young people who have come on our courses.

It’s OK to feel the way you do – everyone’s experiences are different, real & valid. “It’s ok not to be ok” is a phrase often used and it is absolutely true.  Children and young people find it hard to regulate their emotions at the best of times but when they are going through loss it is doubly hard. Validating their feelings is very important and it is also equally important to help and support them through those feelings to a place of acceptance and hope.  For example, “It’s ok to feel angry but it isn’t good for you to stay there forever.”

How can we help young people to deal with loss?

Over the next 5 blogs we are going to use the Kubler Ross cycle of grief and look at the 5 very real emotions we feel when we lose someone or something. But before we do here are 7 principles that young people have said they find most helpful when we are supporting them through their loss.

Be normal Children and young people generally do not like to be treated differently and this is heightened when they are dealing with loss.

Remember that friends are important Friends can be a huge source of strength and comfort. There have been times, on the course that we run, where it has been made up those who have experienced loss and their friends in equal numbers.

Let them take the lead Ask them what you can do to support them, don’t assume anything.

Be careful with your language It is very easy to be careless with our words.  There have been times when I have said something and have immediately wanted to take the words back, so just think before you speak.

Give them something to do to help them remember One of the biggest fears for children and young people is that they will forget. Photos, videos, voice notes are important as are things like memory jars, planting a tree and doing something special on their birthdays.

Be honest and real There may well be times where it is right to share your own experience but also to be honest about their story. Simply saying, “That must be really hard for you” can go a long way.

Get help and support  Sometimes people get stuck in grief and may need more help than we can give them and so it is important to know what local services are available should you need them.  It is also important for you to have somewhere to go with your emotions too. 

For a bit of an introduction to the Kubler Ross Cycle of Grief and some really useful tips click on the link below