In the UK, the majority of young people will have experienced the death of someone close to them by the time they leave school according to Child Bereavement UK  – and almost everyone will face this at some point in their lives.   

Learning about loss and bereavement from a young age could help equip young people to support themselves through bereavement now or in the future, and to respond kindly and supportively to bereaved peers. 

In this article, we will explore how lessons on loss and death in schools could benefit bereaved children and encourage more open conversations about death.

Bereavement education in schools

Following the COVID-19 pandemic in which many young people experienced the loss of a loved one, calls for better child bereavement support were actioned in the UK.

The UK Commission on Bereavement’s report Bereavement is everyone’s business’ called for all education establishments to be required to have a bereavement policy, including staff training, and a process for supporting bereaved children and their families.

Additionally,  National Association of Funeral Directors President John Adams launched a Parliamentary petition for all school-age children to be taught about death, dying and bereavement in schools as part of compulsory PHSE lessons. John shares what inspired his campaign:

"I lost my mother when I was 12, an experience which has given me a heightened level of compassion. For a child, their immediate family is their life; I feel passionately that we need to involve children in funerals and the grieving process. We may want to protect children from sadness and loss, but we cannot avoid it - it’s part of living."

Why is bereavement education so important?

Losing a loved one can be difficult for anyone, but for young people especially, experiencing the death of someone close to them can be a particularly distressing time. For teachers and peers, knowing how to provide the right support can be confusing, leading to many avoiding the conversation for fear of saying the wrong thing. 

Grief is a very personal experience; with every child and young person experiencing it in a different way. Irritability, anger, and instability are common reactions, and this can lead to changes in behaviour in school which can have a knock on effect to other students.

Additionally, according to a collection of studies by PsycINFO and PubMed, individuals who experience the loss of a parent or sibling in childhood are at higher risk for developing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The impact of childhood bereavement on mental health may also be long-lasting and can persist into adulthood.

The findings represent an opportunity for a much-needed change towards death, loss, and bereavement in the education sector. Integrating death and bereavement education into the curriculum can help equip children to develop realistic and healthy attitudes towards death and loss, be more sensitive to the grief of others, and develop more effective coping strategies of their own for now, and in the future. 

With the right training, teachers and educators can be more prepared to support a pupil experiencing grief and manage challenging behaviour more productively.

bereavement education in uk schools

For more advice on grief and bereavement, visit Celebration of Life

At Celebration of Life, we understand the difficulties of losing a loved one and are here to help you navigate the grieving process. Our extensive Help and Advice articles focus on a range of topics including funeral advice and guides, bereavement advice, and memorial ideas. 

If you are looking to arrange a Direct cremation, at Celebration of Life, we offer one of the UK’s lowest-price, simple and fully inclusive direct cremations, both pre-paid and at-need. We’re authorised by the FCA, and available whenever you need us. So, if you’re looking for an affordable and fuss-free direct cremation service, contact us at Celebration of Life today – we’re always happy to help.

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