Supporting bereaved children of military families
Any sudden death is a devastating event for children. When the death is that of a member of the Armed Services there are additional difficulties to come to terms with and it is essential to understand the context of military life to make sense of these. Although the risk of death is understood by anyone in the armed forces, this does not make the news of a death any easier to bear. In addition, the family may have to cope with the traumatic nature of a death in a combat situation as well as intense media interest. Private grief may become very public property and families may feel overwhelmed.
Winston’s Wish, the charity for bereaved children, is a leading authority on child bereavement and the largest provider of services to bereaved families in the UK. We have 20 years of experience working with children bereaved in many different ways but our work with children bereaved in traumatic circumstances is particularly relevant when it comes to working with bereaved military families.
With timely information, advice and practical ideas to compliment the efforts of parents, carers, teachers, professionals and other agencies supporting a child or young person, children can come through these difficult times. The challenge for families and professionals is to try and help children feel involved, and understand enough to reach a time when they remember the person’s life more than the way they died.
Throughout this section on the website we provide information that will be helpful to families and also professionals who come into contact with children and young people from military families who have been bereaved. We will give practical ideas as well as showing the services that Winston’s Wish can offer nationally.
The following areas will be included:
An insight into military life for family members and professionals and those who may be supporting bereaved children
• Cycle of deployment
• Service deaths
• What happens when a member of the Armed Services dies?
• Role of Armed Service personnel
• Viewing the body
• Service inquiry
• The Funeral
Why does bereavement following the death of a member of the Armed Services differ from other types of bereavement?• Pressures and pain
• Grief magnified
• Impact on families
• Secondary losses
Feelings and thoughts• Numbness shock and disbelief
• Anger and vengeance
• A heroic death?
• Fear and lack of security
• Trying to make sense of it
• Being in the public eye
• Living through a lens
• Role of the military
• Saying goodbye
• The funeral and other memorials
Explaining a death in service to children and young people• Never too young to know
• Be honest and consistent
• Finding the right words
• Painful conversations
• Making opportunities to talk
• Memories when the child knew little or nothing about the person who died
• Difficult relationships with the person who died
The role of schools• Getting back to school
• Talking with the school
• Supporting teachers
Looking ahead• Moving forward
• Facing the future
• Meeting others
• Looking after yourself
Winston’s Wish – how can we help?
Practical ideas to help everyone develop the skills involved in supporting bereaved children
• Remembering good times – accepting bad times too – memory stones
• Treasuring memories – memory box
• Understanding what happened – telling the story
• Coping with separation
• Night time worries
• Useful reading
Sources of information and supportReferences
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