Nurturing Hearts: The Essential Role of Bereavement Advocates in Schools

Nurturing Hearts: The Essential Role of Bereavement Advocates in Schools

16 May 2024

Workplace Bereavement

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This informal CPD article, ‘Nurturing Hearts: The Essential Role of Bereavement Advocates in Schools’ was provided by Workplace Bereavement, who specialise in providing workplace bereavement training to companies so that those trained advocates can support colleagues who experience bereavement loss.

The role of the school extends beyond academic learning; it is a nurturing ground where young personalities develop, emerging as confident, skilled and responsible members of society. However, within this delicate ecosystem, addressing the profound experience of bereavement among children and young people requires a specialised approach.

Enter the bereavement advocate. A crucial figure, adept in supporting children and young people, to navigate the complexities of grief within our educational settings. In this article, we delve into the invaluable benefits of having such advocates, highlighting the profound and positive impact of their role on children and young people, families, and the wider school community.

Importance of Bereavement Advocates

Bereavement is a multifaceted experience, particularly for our younger generation who are learning to recognise, understand and express their emotions. Behaviours stemming from grief can manifest in a myriad of ways, from withdrawal to anger to confusion. Quite often, we underestimate the depth of a child or young person's unique emotional experience in the face of loss, assuming that they are too young to understand it or making assumptions based on how the child or young person presents. However, bereavement in childhood can be much more complex than we think.

In fact, The National Institute of Health states “Studies of adults with various mental disorders, especially depression, frequently reveal childhood bereavement, suggesting that such loss may precipitate or contribute to the development of a variety of psychiatric disorders and that this experience can render a person emotionally vulnerable for life.” 1

Having a trained bereavement advocate on hand provides children and young people with a safe space to process their emotions, ask questions, and learn coping strategies tailored to their individual needs, preventing associated mental health disorders that may manifest in later life.

Extensive Role of Bereavement Advocates

One significant barrier to children and young people receiving adequate support during bereavement is the reluctance from parents to broach the subject. Understandably, parents may avoid discussing grief with their children for fear of causing further upset or due to their own emotional struggles, particularly those overwhelmed by their own sense of grief. Equally, children and young people may avoid talking to their parents or carers about their grief as a way of protecting them from further pain. However, this avoidance, in either case, can leave children feeling isolated with thoughts that they don’t understand and feelings they can’t control.

Bereavement advocates bridge this gap by creating an environment free from judgment where children and young people can express themselves openly. Moreover, the support provided by bereavement advocates extends beyond the classroom. For parents and carers, knowing that their child has access to compassionate support at school brings a sense of relief and reinforces the importance of a holistic approach to well-being within the family and educational settings.

The role of a bereavement advocate is not limited to addressing specific types of loss either. Whether it's the death of a loved one, the loss of a pet, or a significant life transition, such as a divorce or relocation etc, advocates are equipped to provide guidance and support. They understand that any form of separation can evoke feelings of grief in children and young people and adapt their approach accordingly. Furthermore, the advocate is equipped to educate adults in the setting and wider school community on grief awareness strategies and can assist other children in supporting their peers who have experienced a loss. This versatility underscores the importance of emotional intelligence and empathy in our educational settings.

Strengthening Resilience and Promoting Compassion

In implementing the presence of bereavement advocates, schools embrace a philosophy of holistic support for children, young people and their families. By acknowledging and addressing emotional needs, educators create an environment conducive to learning and growth that supports and sets children and young people up for significant life events they will undoubtedly encounter throughout their lives.

The presence of advocates fosters a culture of openness and compassion, where nobody feels alone in their unique grief journey. Moreover, by instilling these support mechanisms early on, we are not just assisting children and young people in coping with grief in the present, but also building personal resilience that will serve them well into adulthood. This proactive approach helps mitigate the potential for negative behaviours stemming from unresolved grief, shaping the way future generations approach adversity.

By nurturing emotional intelligence and coping skills, schools are playing a crucial role in shaping a culture where individuals are equipped to face life's challenges with resilience and compassion. All it takes is having one person who is trained and understands to help nurture their heart, paving the way for a brighter, more resilient future for the youth of today.

In conclusion, bereavement advocates play a vital role in schools and settings, providing essential support to children and young people navigating the complex terrain of grief. By offering a safe space for expression, tailored guidance, and holistic support for families, advocates contribute to the emotional wellbeing of the entire school community. Their presence embodies the ethos of empathy and an understanding that lies at the heart of truly effective personal development and education.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Workplace Bereavement, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.



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For more information from Workplace Bereavement, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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