Bereavement Support for Young People
Welcome to the club, a club you don’t want to be a part of and yet you have no control over about joining. Whether you are here because someone you love has died or whether you are trying to find support for someone you care about who has been bereaved, it is not a nice situation to find yourself in. We hope exploring this page will help you realise that you are not alone as there are lots of teenagers who have been, who are and who will become a part of the Simon Says family.
We all share one thing in common, we have had someone important to us die. That does not mean we share the same story, will have the same experiences or even go on the same bereavement journey, as we are all unique and all have our different stories to tell but there is something powerful about grieving with others who just understand and get it.
If you are in need of urgent support please contact one of the organisations below.
Simon Says run monthly support groups where you can meet other young people who have been bereaved. Each session we focus on a particular theme related to bereavement and do activities around this; it might be talking, making something, a group activity, we also have down time which is a chance for us to just chill together. You are never forced to share unless you want to do so, sometimes just hearing someone else express exactly what you are thinking and feeling can be enough to validate your thoughts and help you realise you are not alone in your grief. It can really help to see others who are at different stages of their journey and help to give you hope for the future. There is no charge, you do not have to come for a set number of sessions, if you have had a bad day or you feel in a good place, then you are under no pressure to come but obviously we would love to see you!!
The video below was recorded at the Young Persons Group in Eastleigh and will hopefully reassure you that the sessions are not all doom and gloom. Although we are talking about things we find hard we learn it is ok to have fun and laugh too.
If you would like to come and join us at one of our groups and find out what we are all about then please contact our telephone support line on 023 8064 7550 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grief is normal and everyone will grieve in their own way, it is part of the healing process. You may feel all sorts of emotions or you may not feel anything at all. Whatever you are feeling, that is ok. Meet some of our volunteers, Ryan, Molly and Hannah, who joined Simon Says when they were bereaved as children and young people talk about their experiences of grief.
Stages of Grief
A closer look at the different stages of grief, can you recognise where you are? Where would you like to be?
Stages of Grief
The Reality of Grief
The Journey of Grief
We regularly look at models of grief with our young people, here is some of their work and words they chose to use:
Music Is What Feelings Sound Like
A playlist for when you are having a reflective grief day, a sad grief day or a positive and happy grief day
Try exploring these websites for other songs –
Get Your Head Out of It
Here are some ideas to help when you want to change your mood but are not quite sure how to do so!!
‘Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that you don’t recover. Instead, you learn to incorporate their absence and memories into your life and channel your emotional energy toward others, and eventually, your grief will walk beside you instead of consuming you.’ Rashida Rowe
We wish there was a magic wand to make all the pain go away or a rule book to show you how to cope with grief but unfortunately there is not. However, we hope this section might give you some ideas on how to ‘cope’ with all the big feelings and emotions you experience when someone important to you dies. Listen as Ryan, Molly and Hannah talk about what techniques they used to get them through those challenging times.
Remember these top tips:
Find a way to release your emotions – they WILL come out in some shape or form so take control of how they manifest themselves!
You are not alone – find someone to join you on your bereavement journey, whether that is a close friend, a trusted adult, a counsellor or a Simon Says support group.
What To Do When You Are Grieving
Click on the image to view practical tips of things to do.
Our Top Strategies to Cope With Grief
Click on the image to view a selection of activities and ideas of things our teenagers have found helped them to cope with their grief.
Activities to Help You Remember
Positive activities you can do to help you capture the memories of the person who died.
Here are some poems our young people have written. Click on the image to view a larger version.
Leah’s Poem – Page 1
Leah’s Poem – Page 2
It is important to understand that when you are bereaved you will not ‘recover’, as life will never return to how it used to be before your loved one died. Grieving is about adjustment and acceptance. Life is different for the people left behind when someone dies and coming to terms with it is a part of grieving. Nobody should be expected to ‘recover’ or ‘get over’ the death of someone.
There are going to be times of the year, activities, topics of conversation, smells, a song, topics you study at school which will be difficult. These may act as a trigger to bring all your emotions, thoughts and feelings right back to the surface and can happen when you least expect it. This is going to be different for every individual. It is important to acknowledge the things you find hard, talk about them, prepare for them (if you are able to do so) and find a coping strategy which works well for you.
You are not the only one who finds this difficult!
Ryan, Molly and Hazel talk about the things they found hard in the days, weeks, months and years after their dads died.
Advice Our Teenagers Would Have Given Themselves!
If you could have turned back the clock what advice would you have given yourself when you were first bereaved? Hopefully this might help those who have recently had someone important to them die.
How to Help a Bereaved Friend
When someone important to your friend dies it can be really hard to know how to react. Maybe; they are in pain and you don’t know how to comfort them and make it better, maybe they seem to be in denial and are carrying on as normal and you don’t know how to react, maybe you are grieving or are in shock as well but feel like your feelings are not valid as they must pale into insignificance in comparison to what they are experiencing. Remember to acknowledge your needs – whether that is a need to talk about your own thoughts, feelings and emotions or your worries about how to support a friend. Find someone (another friend, a trusted adult or call our telephone support line) that can help you to be the friend you want to be.
Click on the picture below to view some ideas on; How to Help a Bereaved Friend.
How to Support a Bereaved Teenager?
Websites that might help:
If you are not sure how to support or would like any advice on a specific situation, then remember our support line is there for you.
When someone important to you dies your world is suddenly turned upside down, it can leave you confused, scared, relieved, angry… so many different conflicting emotions and thoughts swirling around inside your head. These often manifest themselves in lots of questions, some practical and some which you will never get the answer to. In this section we will try and address some of the questions we often hear from our teenagers. If the answer to your question is NOT here then please contact our telephone helpline on 02380 647550, email us on email@example.com or come along to one of our support groups.
The Coroner Court is the court where an investigation into cause of death is carried out. If the cause of death appears to be unknown, violent or unnatural causes, then the coroner (a specially trained doctor or lawyer who is responsible for determining cause of death) will decide to carry out an inquest. This is an investigation designed to find out who the deceased was, and where, when and how they died. The “how” question is usually the most difficult. This process takes time and most coroners aim to complete inquests within 6-9 months.
This fact sheet will hopefully answer your questions in more detail.
“This can be a really hard time as you are often left waiting for answers and sometimes you do not get them and there is no conclusion. That is when Simon Says is really helpful, they listen without judgement.” Simon Says Young Person.
A post-mortem, also known as an autopsy, is the examination of a body after the death. This is carried out by a pathologist (who is a specially trained doctor) and the purpose of a post-mortem is to determine the cause of death; how, when and why they died.
This useful guide will give you more detail:
“This will give you answers to the questions you have about why they died. Make sure you ask your GP if you don’t understand any of the medical jargon, our doctor was great and really explained stuff to my brother”. Simon Says Young Person
This is a really hard question to answer and whether you should go and see your loved one’s body is a decision you need to make alongside your family. There are some things you should consider before you go.
A family member may be required to view a body in the morgue in order to confirm their identity.
A ‘Chapel of Rest’ is a room or building which is often attached to a funeral home and is where people can go to view someone who has died before the funeral. The person will be in a coffin with the lid open so you are able to see them, they will usually be dressed in clothes the family have provided for them. Their eyes will be shut and great care will have been taken to try and make sure they look at rest and peaceful. The room will be private and only have them in, there is usually chairs and there may be peaceful music playing softly. The room WILL be cold, this is needed to help to preserve the body, this means if you lay your hand on your special persons skin it WILL be cold to the touch.
Remember your funeral director will be the best person to talk to as they will be able to talk through and answer any specific questions you may have.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question, you need to do what is right for you. Some people find it helpful to view the body as this helps them to process and understand they are really dead and are not coming back, not everyone will need or want to do this. You also need to consider this might not be an option, you may not be allowed to view the body in some circumstances; traumatic deaths, forensic reasons or the family not wishing for visitors… It is important you talk to someone to help you answer any questions and thoughts you may have around this.
“I didn’t see my dad’s body and I don’t have any regrets but I know it helps other people”
Simon Says Young Person
A funeral is a ceremony or service held shortly after a person’s death. Funerals are all very different, they maybe traditional, religious, a burial or a cremation. They are often personalised to reflect the person who has died and to give those who are left behind a chance to talk about and share memories of them. Different cultures and religions have very different customs and ceremonies when someone dies, please see the links at the end for detailed insight into this.
Traditionally, the body of the person who died will be inside the coffin and this will be transported to the place where the funeral is being held in a vehicle arranged via the undertaker (funeral directors) this is usually a traditional hearse (a long black car with windows so the coffin is visible) but may be something alternative like a horse and cart or motorcycle and side carriage. The family may choose to have a funeral procession; these are extra cars which follow the coffin to the ceremony (you will not be in the same vehicle as the coffin).
The coffin is made specially to fit the person who died so will be the same shape and size as them, these are made out of a variety of materials, often wood, but it may be wicker, elaborate or personalised. The coffin is then carried in to the service by Pallbearers these are either people who work for the funeral home or people the family have invited to carry the coffin usually people who were important to the person who died. Sometimes mourners (that is the collective name given to ‘everyone’ who attends) will follow the coffin in and at other times they will already be seated inside. The family will make this decision.
The family will let you know what their arrangements for the funeral are. Some families like mourners to wear black to a funeral, as that colour is traditionally linked to mourning whilst others prefer people to wear something bright as they are celebrating the life of their special person or for everyone to wear something which was their favourite colour…
During the service immediate members of the family and close friends usually sit at the front. The service normally consists of readings, songs/music and eulogies, these are short speeches where people talk about the life of the person who died, what made them special and share important memories. If some of the stories told are funny, then people will often laugh as they recall these moments.
If someone special to you has died it can help to be involved in organising the funeral, you may want to take responsibility for or work with a trusted adult to do this. Some of the things you could consider helping with may be:
Compiling a montage of music for the coffin to be carried into and for people to walk out of the ceremony at the end of the service
Compiling a slideshow of photos of their life
Helping to write the Order of Ceremony (a small leaflet style book which tells mourners what is going to happen)
Giving out the Order of Ceremony when people arrive
Giving out a small gift at the end of the ceremony to everyone, often a flower or seeds…
Sharing a eulogy – reading out a song, poem or reading either one you have written or one which resonates with you.
Some of the information you may want to find out before you go to the funeral are; Who will be there? What is going to happen? Where will the service take place (you may want to visit beforehand to help prepare yourself for the event on the day)? When will the funeral happen? Why are we doing this?
For more support and advice visit:
Information about funerals – https://www.coop.co.uk/funeralcare
Information about cremations – https://scattering-ashes.co.uk/help-advice/funeral/cremation-faq/
Information about funeral traditions of different religions and cultures –
“I was 11 when my dad died and I helped put together a slideshow of photos and my brother compiled a track of ride songs from our dad’s favourite rollercoasters. That helped us to feel involved. I don’t really remember the funeral apart from our car broke down!” Simon Says Young Person.
Yes, and no!! At the moment you may feel all consumed by the death of your special person or you may not feel anything at all, and that is okay. You may feel as if all those big feelings and emotions, all that sadness and grief seem to occupy every part of you. It is important to understand you are on a journey and you will not always feel like you do at the moment. That is not to say those feelings will go away, lessen or disappear but as you progress on your bereavement journey, over time you will grow, you will change, you will learn how to move forward and live again as you adjust to your new ‘normal life’ without your special person. That does not mean you will forget them, a crucial part of bereavement work is helping you to treasure and capture those memories. It means you come to a point where you can look back on happy times and smile instead of cry, it means you can start living your life again and looking forwards.
Looking at some Models of Grief help you understand the grieving process and give you hope that you will not always feel sad.
“Grief is like an ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can learn to do is swim.”
On those good grief days, we are paddling, laughing and enjoying being near and in the sea but sometimes (and it can appear out of nowhere) the storm whips up or we feel overwhelmed by a tsunami, those bad grief days are hard but with support you can get through and weather the storm.
“My dad died 5 years ago and although it has been hard I feel like now I am in a new chapter. I wouldn’t be the person I am today; it has shaped me. Now I am more confident, I don’t care so much about what other people think, I have learnt the importance of living each day and making the most of opportunities. Sure, there are some days when I am still sad and there always will be.”
Simon Says Young Person
Yes, it is okay to feel relieved, however it is rare to have this feeling in isolation, it is often intertwined and accompanied by a whole host of conflicting emotions. Feeling relief is a common emotion, especially when someone you love has died as a result of a long term illnesses or you have had an uncomfortable relationship with them.
Remember all bereavement experiences are individual. Feeling relieved does not diminish all of your other emotions. Talking to someone may help you make sense of your emotions and thoughts.
The definition of relief according to the Oxford English Dictionary
The act of removing or reducing pain, anxiety, etc.
The feeling of happiness that you have when something unpleasant stops or does not happen.
This blog might be of help:
NO!! You are not responsible for the death of your special person. Feelings of guilt are actually normal and common when someone you love dies. You may blame yourself for something you did, or did not do, for something you said or did not say, maybe you feel like you did not do enough for that person before they died and you could have somehow prevented the death. All those ‘what if I…’ and ‘if only I…’ questions and thoughts are all normal and healthy responses. It is part of the grieving process.
You cannot go back in time. To move forward you need to acknowledge your feelings and find a way to let go of your guilt, otherwise it ends up consuming you. Find someone you trust that you can confide in and talk to about these feelings, maybe an adult at home or at school, a friend or coming along to one of our support groups.
Try writing a letter to the person who has died letting them know how you are feeling and asking for their forgiveness.
Feelings of guilt can be more complicated when your loved one has died in traumatic circumstances, especially if the mode of death was suicide.
Please remember you are not alone and reach out to get support, see the list of useful websites or phone our help line on 02380 647550.
This blog might help:
We all feel emotions in different ways and at different times. That is ok. Sometimes people cry because they are sad or angry or lonely. Sometimes people feel these emotions and do not cry. Sometimes people may cry many weeks or months later when they don’t expect to, some people don’t cry at all. Just because you are not crying doesn’t mean that you are not sad or angry or hurting. We all show emotions in different ways. You may not be crying because you are in the first stage of grief, denial, and the reality of the death of your loved one has not sunk in.
Nothing! Feelings and emotions are complicated! Some feelings can be very strong and sometimes feelings seem to disappear. That is normal and ok. Feelings can be described as waves… they come and go, get bigger and smaller. Sometimes they are ferocious and huge and sometimes they are calm and flat. Sometimes we have so much going on in our heads that it is hard to feel things in our bodies or put how we feel into words. That is ok. Sometimes people show those emotions through being quiet or by being extra busy. Sometimes people write or draw or paint. Sometimes people talk to someone close to them or another trusted adult to explore these emotions. Whatever you are feeling is ok, you will not feel that way forever. Grieving is a journey with many different stages.
It is difficult, and often impossible, to imagine life without your special person. All of what was, and all of your plans for the future, everything has changed. The love you have for them will never lessen, they will always be an important part of your life BUT the pain you are now feeling can become manageable and lessen as you learn how to grow again. There is no way around the journey of grief— it is a necessary part of the healing process. Although you may be finding it hard to look to the future or feel like you can still achieve all of your hopes, dreams and plans please take comfort in knowing there are other bereaved teenagers who have done this. Do you recognise any of these celebrities? They all had important people die when they were young, if they can do it then you can to!!
1.Bella Thorne, actress (dad, aged 9) 2.Curtis Jackson (50 Cent), musician (mum, aged 8) 3.Dove Cameron, actress (dad, aged 15) 4.Tom Daley, Olympic diver (dad, aged 12) 5.Prince William and Harry (mum aged 15&12) 6.Alan Davies, actor (mum, aged6) 7.Joe Swash, actor (dad, aged 11) 8.Sean Combs (P Diddy), musician (dad, aged 3) 9.Sally Taylor, BBC news presenter (mum, aged 6) 10.The Kardashians, reality tv stars (dad, aged 16&18) 11.Maya Rudolph, actress (mum, aged 7) 12. John Torode, chef (mum, aged 4) 13. Ethan and Grayson Dolan, You Tubers (dad, aged 18) 14. Madonna, singer (mum, aged 5) 15.Austin Mahone, singer (dad, aged 1)
“Breathe, eat, drink & take one day at a time. Remember to look after yourself, it is okay to be selfish for a while!” Simon Says Young Person
Remember that you are human, you have a life, and you are allowed to be happy in life. This does not mean you have forgotten them, you do not always have to be sad, you can be happy and remember them too. They will always be a part of your life.
Although your feelings may be overwhelming sometimes, there will be, or there are, other times when you feel that you can also get on with your life again. And that’s ok. They will always be with you in your memories and those memories will pop into your head at unexpected times. But you don’t have to think about them all the time. Having fun with your friends and family can be really healthy and will help to remind you that there are other things you can do too. Do not feel guilty for being happy.
It can sometimes be hard to remember the “details” of a loved one that we no longer see. And it is normal to do that, after all we only have so much room in our heads!
Photos, videos and memory boxes can help with these details but many people find that the most important things to remember are the things that they have done together and how they felt when they were with them. Those are things you won’t be able to forget. There are things you can do to help you capture those memories so you don’t forget and they will act as props to bring those memories to the forefront of your mind.
You may be worried about telling your friends, concerned about how to tell them, how they might react to your news or that they might treat you differently. Friends—even good friends— often don’t know what to say, and don’t know how to handle death, often because they have not been personally impacted. You do not have to tell all your friends, you may want to choose who to confide in. You do not have to do it on your own, you may want a trusted adult to support you when you do it or to share the news on your behalf. It is important you take control of the situation and do what is right for you. Put yourself in their situation, would you want to know if one of your friends was going through a really hard time, would you want to be able to be there to support them through it? You know your friends best. Whatever you decide make sure you find caring adults and peers you can talk to about the death whether that is at home, within school or at one of our support groups. Anxiety about facing peers back at school is a normal feeling, make sure you inform school about the death and that they put measures in place to support you when you return.
“Yes, because they are your friends and they would want to be able to support you. Wouldn’t you want to know if it had happened to one of your friends?” Simon Says Young Person.
Sometimes people don’t know what to say or do when someone close to them has a bereavement. They want to look after them and make sure they are ok. But the way they do this may not work for you, or it may be what you need sometimes but not at other times. It is ok to ask people not to treat you any differently. It’s ok to ask people to not to talk about it unless you bring the subject up. However, remember that they think they are being kind and are trying to support you, so how you talk to them about this is important. In school, a trusted adult may be able to do this for you instead of you having to tell so many people, especially if it is making you feel angry, sad, anxious or you just do not want to. Being treated the same as everyone else is important for some people after a bereavement. It can help you to remember that some parts of your life have stayed the same and feels safe and comfortable. Tell someone close to you how you are feeling and let them help you tell others. Remember that people cannot see the thoughts in your head so it is important to be able to tell them what you need.
Grief is individual and everyone has individual responses. Although we should not stereotype, gender may have a small part to play in how grief responses occur. Girls are generally more likely to show grief through talking and sharing their emotions whereas boys may show theirs through physical activity and negative behaviours. Emotional maturity also has an impact.
It is important to communicate clearly with someone who ‘has your back’, cares for you and can let others know how you are feeling, particularly if you don’t want to. It is important you have someone who will answer your questions honestly and with respect and if they don’t know the answer, they might be able to find out for you.
This could be a teacher or teaching assistant or your tutor at school or college, a family friend or relative or someone you trust from a club that you attend.
If your parents are usually the strong guiding force in your lives to see them grieving, out of their depth and in pain can be really hard. You may feel powerless to help them and feel like there is nothing you can do; you may even feel like you cannot share your grief with them because you do not want to burden them with your troubles on top of their own.
This article gives some great advice and tips on how to support a parent:
When your sibling dies your parent’s grief can be particularly raw and you may have a whole array of complex thoughts, feeling and emotions; feelings of guilt for surviving, isolation, despair…
This website may really help you explore these in more detail and help you realise you are not alone:
When you grieve your brain is overwhelmed by so many different thoughts, feelings and emotions there is little room left for anything else. Grief takes a lot of energy. As a teenager your brain is still developing and you have fewer coping strategies than adults, so you can often feel overwhelmed by life; maintaining grades, socialising, activities, a job… This is normal, you are not going mad. You might find it helpful to look at the impact of teenage brain to cope with bereavement.
If you are finding the demands of life challenging make sure you take steps to be kind to yourself, assess how and where you can minimise the expectations on you – what can you temporarily cut back on? Ask for help and support from your teachers and school, do they have a counsellor or someone you can talk to?
Often we keep ourselves distracted from our thoughts and feelings, and we use this as a coping strategy during the day, however when you lay your head down on the pillow you can no longer escape and the things you have been keeping at bay start swirling around in your head, preventing you from getting a good night sleep.
It is important you build time into your day to address all your thoughts and feelings and stop running away from them. You do not need to, nor will you be able to solve everything but often acknowledging your thoughts can help to release them. You could try talking to an adult, a friend or writing them down in a journal.
There are also things you can build into your evening routine to support and encourage sleep. Visit your GP for further support.
These websites will give you more ideas:
How long should you be friends until you share this news? How do you bring it into a conversation? These are all worries you may have, and they are normal worries. Starting a new school or job can be daunting but it can also be considered as a fresh start. It can be a chance for you to take back control, you can decide when, how and who you share the news that someone important to you has died, you might choose to tell a few new friends or you might not want to tell anyone. Instead focus on being yourself; enjoy being able to introduce you, your likes, your strengths, your passions…the things that truly define you rather than being defined and known as the person whose ‘dad/mum/sibling…’ died.
Do not feel under any pressure, instead try waiting until you know the person well and you want to share the news, they ask about your family and you are ready to tell them or it naturally comes up in conversation.
It may help to make sure your new school/college/work place is aware and you know who is the best adult and the safe place to go to if you need to talk to about things.
Who Do You Become?
A series of 5 short videos where young people share their bereavement stories, what happened, how they felt and what helped them to cope.
Meet Ben who talks about his struggles after his dad died and how he wanted to just run away from everything.
Meet Mia who always found it hard to connect with people but this was made a million times worse when her dad died and how that sense of isolation intensified until she found solace in music and support.
Meet Samantha who shares how she painted on a smile for the world to see, externally confident yet internally broken. When her mum died she lost her source of happiness and needed to learn how to be happy again.
Meet Joey who talks about his time at the Simon Says Young Persons Group (YPG), how he struggled to see the teenagers at the group laughing and having fun when his dad had died. But how joining in, when he was ready, helped him to navigate his bereavement journey.
Every Hour, Every Day
This is an amazing project which involved a group of our inspiring young people who attend our Young Persons Support Group (YPG) at Simon Says. They produced this short animated film to tell their stories in order to help other young people in a similar situation to themselves and to give those who have not been bereaved a little insight into how someone you love dying impacts your whole life. Special thanks to the Charlotte Slinger at Hampshire County Council and Gary and his team at www.cassproductions.co.uk for their help in making this happen.
Calm App; https://www.calm.com/
Stop, breath, think App (self-regulation); https://www.stopbreathethink.com/
A Part of Me App (bereavement journey game); https://apartofme.app/
Child Bereavement UK App; https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/grief-support-for-young-people/id883195199
Hope Again; https://www.hopeagain.org.uk/
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide; https://uksobs.org/
Sibling Support; http://www.siblingsupport.co.uk/
Simon Says; https://www.simonsays.org.uk/
Winston’s Wish; https://www.winstonswish.org/supporting-you/
Action For Happiness App; https://www.actionforhappiness.org/smartphone-app
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM); https://www.thecalmzone.net/
CAMHS (specific support for COVID-19 and other useful info); https://hampshirecamhs.nhs.uk/help/young-people/coronavirus-help-support-and-advice/
ChildLine For Me App; https://www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/for-me/
Meetwo App; https://www.meetwo.co.uk/
The Fabulous App; https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/fabulous-daily-self-care/id1203637303
Various Supportive Videos of Help : https://hampshirecamhs.nhs.uk/help/young-people/early-help/
Young Minds; https://youngminds.org.uk/