Carers Week 2020: how bereavement can affect young carers
This Carers Week 2020, we’re here to give advice on how to help young carers who may be going through a bereavement. Head of Trauma at Grief Encounter, Stacey Hart, says “Carers, especially young carers, already carry with them a huge emotional responsibility, caring for a dependent, whether they be older or younger than them. Often, this can be a parent or a sibling with a chronic physical or mental illness. If the young person goes on to suffer a bereavement of the person they are caring for, they can feel very lost emotionally. They have suffered the death of their loved one, but also their role within the family unit.
If they experience the death of someone else close, they may feel like they don’t have the time or space to properly grieve due to their responsibility as a young carer.” They could have also suffered loses already, their loss of childhood and can feel a huge sense of isolation and feeling alone.
Acceptance of Feelings:
Suffering the death of a loved one is devastating at any age, but for a child or young person it can be especially hard. Confusion, anxiety and anger are just a few of the emotions they may experience when faced with grief. Young carers can feel a heightened sense of loss when the person they are caring for dies, as they grieve their loved one, but also their identity as their care giver. “Their daily routine will be different, their living situation may have to change, they may feel especially isolated without the companionship of the person they cared for, and they may experience a sense of guilt if they feel relief.” says Stacey. “Relief can be a totally normal emotion to feel when someone you care for is no longer suffering. The young person no longer has to witness the pain and hurt their loved one is going through, and that can feel like a weight has been lifted. It’s important to help young people know that it’s ‘normal’ to feel this way, and not something to feel ashamed or embarrassed of. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and young carers may feel a range of different emotions. Life my never be the same again, they will have to adjust to their new normal.
Isolation and Connection:
One of the most common feelings young people can experience after the death of someone close is isolation. At Grief Encounter, connection is at the heart of everything we do; connecting bereaved young people and children, and providing them with a safe space to talk openly with others experiencing the same as them. It is important to allow open conversations about feelings, and give children the opportunity to talk through their emotions and their memories, both with a professional, peers and family members. Grief Encounter host group workshops for children and young people so they can meet and form relationships with similar individuals so they don’t feel so alone.
If a young carer is suddenly left without responsibility, this can lead them to feel without purpose. Consider giving them a role in the funeral planning, or a new task set around the house so that they still feel responsible for something.” Suggests Stacey.
If a young carer has suffered the death of someone close, but is still caring for a family member, Stacey suggests having a network in place to allow the child time to grieve. “Set up a rota system, or ask your extended friends/family for support for the young person so he/she can take time out. When they attend school/college, ask teachers to give them the freedom to ask for time out for a chat, a moment to think, etc. It’s important that they be given the chance to rest from their responsibilities to process the bereavement. Signpost to other organisations that might be able to help.
Children and young people should be encouraged to continue bonds with the deceased. Here are some helpful and healthy ways to remember
- Talking to your loved one who died can bring comfort when you miss them the most
- Keep photos around to remind you of the special person
- Acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries and important days in the calendar. Remember those special times spent together
- Keep a memory box. Keeping meaningful items can be a way to connect
Get Support Now
If you are working with or caring for a bereaved child, immediate support is available via our freephone national helpline08088020111.All calls are answered by qualified bereavement specialists and are confidential. If you don’t feel ready to talk, youcan log on to our website, www.griefencounter.org.ukand access our live webchat service, open 9am –9pm weekdays.