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St Elizabeth Hospice

The school have completed St Elizabeth Hospice’s Dying to Talk programme, which encourages youngSt Elizabeth Hospice people to have open conversations about end-of-life and bereavement.

Part of St Elizabeth Hospice’s 565 Service, which provides emotional and bereavement support for children, young people and families living with a family member with progressive illness, Dying to Talk is a training programme run by St Elizabeth Hospice which raises standards in conversations about end-of-life and awareness around bereavement and support services available.

 “At any age the conversation subject of death and bereavement is often seen as ‘taboo’ but it is really important to have these open conversations, particularly at a young age, in order to help each other’.

“During the last few years, Covid-19 has seen many of our community impacted by death and bereavement of a friend or a loved one. There is no right or wrong way to experience grief or to think about death and dying, but through having honest conversations with a trusted relative, friend, teacher  or a counsellor we can make a real difference and make living with loss easier for us all.”

On completion of the Dying to Talk training the schools have nominated a children’s bereavement champion whom attended a six week training course delivered by the hospice, as well as developing bereavement care to the highest standard by undertaking an assessment of the support available to children in school and completion of an improvement plan, where required.

To ensure the new practices are kept to update and continue to evolve, each year their support services for pupils will be reviewed by the hospice and a nominated school Bereavement Champion will lead the service provision while attending biannual consultations sessions with children bereavement service counsellors to refresh training and maintain a high level of support for families.

Talking to children about death and dying

Talking to children about the long term illness or death of a loved one can be very difficult. There is no ‘right thing’ to say, only what is ‘good enough’ based on their age and level of understanding sometimes ‘good enough’ is simply a case of sitting with them so they know you’re there and letting them start the conversation.

Doing something while you talk can help to make it easier; drawing; walking; a long car journey; anything that keeps hands busy while the mind thinks. Never force your child to talk, just let them know you are there when they want to.

Reactions to news can be varied and their expression of emotion may change are time. They may not react initially but then cry or get angry later, they may even laugh. This is all perfectly normal.

When a death is sudden it can be a lot harder to talk about. If you have some news to give try to make sure the environment is right; no distractions (such as phones or television); a safe place (at home where possible), with something to help express feelings (perhaps a bear to cuddle or a ball to kick).

Talking about illness and death is as much about listening as it is about telling. Children have their own views and questions which are best answered as honestly as possible. If you do not know the answer, tell them you don’t know the answer but will share with them when you do. Never make promises you cannot keep.

Ultimately, conversations between children and their care givers make a relationship stronger, making it better for families to cope as a whole.