Supporting Individuals Experiencing Loss and Grief Graham Rodger 28.07.18
Individuals whom I support often at some point experience a sense of loss or grief for a variety of reasons. Individuals often have had to leave their family home and miss parents or siblings or friends and pets. Individuals may have experienced the breakup of parent’s relationships. Often young individuals come from former residencies where they will miss peers and staff to whom they have formed relationships with and have formed attachments.
Losses may also include loss of home, area, activities and freedom to some extent where they may have previously had free time in the community and now have to work at achieving that privilege again in a new residency, possibly because of previous negative behaviour.
Grief is a natural response to the death or loss of someone or something that we have loved or connected with. Many theorists have looked at the stages and have created models of thinking to the way in which grief is processed to help us to understand and make sense of the many emotions, physical ailments, cognitive patterns and behaviours that can emerge following a bereavement or loss.
There are many contradictions of theorists as to the order of stages and even the repeating or skipping of stages relating to different individuals of differing cultures, religious beliefs and life situations.
I will discuss a couple of theorists who have developed models of grief and loss. These are John Bowlby and Colin Murray Parkes.
Many of the models and stages relate to John Bowlby’s attachment research, (A British psychiatrist 1907 -1990).
The theory being that once an attachment has been formed with (for example) a situation, object or person, strong feelings of anger, protest, sadness and despair can emerge if the attachment is broken, (i.e. through death, divorce or misplacement) which, it is then thought, will fade once new bonds are put into place.
Bowlby is well known for his theory of attachment which is based on mother and baby having a special relationship. A bond between infant and its primary carer. Successful attachment playing a big factor in the future mental health wellbeing of individuals. Bowlby asserted that affectionless psychopathy was caused by maternal deprivation.
Bowlby identified four stages in relation to the grieving process.
Shock and Denial – Initial shock of hearing news and unacceptance of a situation.
Yearning and Protest – Longing for the deceased individual or realisation of the loss of a person or relationship and feeling angry about this.
Despair – Realisation of facts in the situation and knowing that nothing can be changed.
Gradual Recovery – Final acceptance of situation and knowing that moving on is the only option available and actually doing it.
Colin Murray Parkes (1928-present) developed a Phases of Grief model extending upon Bowlby’s attachment theory, that also takes into account our own personal history, experiences to date and in particular the relationship with the deceased, and therefore addresses the need to adjust these accordingly following the bereavement depending on the circumstances and individual.
These four phases are:
Shock and Numbness – Initial impact of the news and feeling of hopelessness.
Yearning and Searching – Longing for the deceased and searching for comfort and or distraction.
Disorientation and disorganisation – Lack of ability to focus on a way forward and distraction from and disregard for the here and now of life.
Reorganisation and resolution – A realisation that an your life is suffering due to being engrossed in grieving for a person and deciding it is time address a lack of self awareness and reorganise and accept things and continue on.
There are a range of agencies who can offer support to young people and or professionals experiencing loss or grief. For example.
www.childbereavement.org.uk “Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement”. Support for Families, Young People, Professionals and Schools as well as a helpline and useful links to other support services such as Childline, Hope support services, Nightline and Get Connected etc.
www.crusescotland.org.uk Welcome to Cruse Scotland. “We are Scotland’s Bereavement Charity. We are here to listen when you feel ready to talk”
Cruse offer a National Helpline, Face to face support, Key Leaflets which address the following subjects;- Understanding Your Grief, Living Through Grief, Bridging the Gap, After a Suicide and others.
Cruse Scotland has a Helpline, an ASK Email service, Support Information, a Drop-In facility, Useful Links, Bereavement Services, a Newsfeed providing stories such as A bereaved child doing sporting activities to raise moneys for charity to remember their loved ones.
www.winstonswish.org.uk “We support children and young people after a death. How a child grieves is vital to their immediate and long-term future, and that is where we can help”.
There are obvious agencies that are there for looked after children and staff, these include NHS, GP’s, OT, CAHMS, Social Work, Police etc.
There is lots of support out there from agencies of many types which have similar facilities to the above mentioned agencies. These include the following.
There are even agencies for support of bereaved pets www.animalsamaritans.org.uk, www.cats.org.uk, even a support site for an animal owner who has died and left a pet behind www.generalguide.uk/now-to-arrange-a-funeral/pet-care-after-owners-death.
As you can see the array of support is vast.
I have supported many young people who are experiencing some form of loss and or grief. One such young person was a 12 year old autistic young person who had just come into care and from his family home where he, his mum and another three siblings had been living, the youngest who was only a year old.
This young person was experiencing a real sense of loss due to missing his siblings, one of whom, his eldest sister, had just had moved out and had a baby herself.
His condition of autism meant he was very much stuck in his own habits and agenda and suddenly, we as a care team were asking him to go to school and participate in activities he had never taken part in before and everything was new and scary for him.
Life as he had known it was very different. The young person had experienced the breakup of his parent’s relationship and the fact that two more recently born children had arrived, the attention he received from his mum and older sister previously was now directed more so at their young children and this angered him and he developed behavioural problems.
Initially things were very difficult for the young person, but with patience and care he began to discuss how he felt about being in care and I and staff were able to listen to him and reassure him that he was temporarily in a better place at this time and sought to improve his life, outlook and understanding of his current situation.
This young person had a photograph on his mobile phone of his youngest brother and his nephew as his lock screen on his mobile phone and often looked at it and spoke about it with myself and staff.
Staff got to know his siblings and nephew by name and would chat about them and got to meet them on occasion when the young person was dropped off and picked up from home contact at his mums. This reassured the young person and brought him closer to his staff whom he was establishing better relations with.
Legal procedures to be followed in the event of a death vary depending if someone is living at home, in a hospital or care home or in a public place.
Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009. Regulation 6. The Death of a Looked After Child.
Local Authority is required to notify the Scottish Ministers immediately in the event of the death of a child who is looked after by them. They must also notify every parent or person with parental responsibilities in relation to the child. This is achieved by advising the Social Work Inspection Agency SWIA, Dundee, within one working day. This can be done via telephone, fax or email.
The details that need to be given are the child’s name, date of birth, the legalities of why they are looked after children, location, brief details of circumstances of their death.
Information should be confirmed immediately in writing and a copy of the death certificate forwarded as soon as it is available. Within 28 days. A detailed report and supporting information. The Local Authority may ask for supplementary information including that from other agencies involved with the child.
The Scottish Ministers will do an investigation into the circumstances as to why the child died which will include the following.
• Examine the arrangements made for the child’s welfare during the time they were looked after.
• Assess whether action taken or not taken by the local authority may have contributed to the child’s death.
• Identify lessons which need to be drawn to the attention of the local authority immediately concerned and/or other authorities or other statutory agencies.
• Review legislation. Policy, guidance, advice or practice in the light of a particular case or any trends emerging from deaths of children being looked after.
Funeral arrangements – Parents with parental responsibilities will make their own arrangements unless they delegate this to the local authority or cannot be found. Support and assistance should be provided to parents to do this if required.
The funeral should be conducted in accordance with the child’s religious persuasion and cultural heritage.
Counselling will be offered to parents/carers of looked after children depending on circumstances.
Attitudes and practices surrounding death have changed in Britain today due to a number of factors. They have been influenced by the decline of religion, the two world wars and the medical revolution. In the 19th century spirituality gave families a model of acceptance of death and bereavement as the will of god and offered some hope of immortality, even of reunions in heaven. Diseases presented falls in mortality such as smallpox and the plague. People are likely to live to old age and their babies survive due to medical breakthroughs.
In Victorian times families used to place the body within the house and mourners would visit and view the body and pay their respects. These days this ritual is taken out of families hands by way of hospitals and funeral parlours and crematoriums providing an after death service.
The National Health Service (created in 1948) has made medicine available to poorer people, who in days gone past may have been buried in a pauper’s grave with crude burials and no epitaphs, because of the costs associated with medicine and services at that time, where only the richer people could afford it. The introduction of the Welfare State has allowed people to rise above the poverty line and whom can now feed themselves and stay healthier than they could before its introduction.
Nowadays it is a person’s right to chose what they want to happen to their remnants. They can leave their bodies to science even.
A death has to be certified to assure no foul play has occurred. Today’s laws ensure that a death is a civilised procedure. A person makes a will these days to ensure the correct distribution of their estate is left to those they love.
Different religions have rites and practices often unique to them.
( “rite” – a religious ceremony or act).
Islamic funerals have specific rites, subject to different areas and vary somewhat in custom. In all cases, however, Islamic religious law calls for burial of the body, preceded by a simple ritual involving bathing and shrouding the body, followed by prayer.
Hindu funerals involve preparation of the body, cleansing at home, cremation and dispersing of the ashes. The fire symbolises the purifying and release of the soul from this world to the next. Hindus mourn for 13 days and friends visit to offer their condolences.
Mormons share beliefs with both Christianity and Catholic faiths although the sign of the cross means nothing to them. Mormon funerals normally take place within a week of the death. Services are lead by a bishop or minister. Speakers usually use the funeral as an opportunity to speak about the doctrines of the Mormon Church.
Humanist funerals focus is on the person who has died and the life they have led. There is no suggestion of an afterlife as it is not a religious ceremony.
A ‘humanist celebrant’ is someone who writes and conducts humanist ceremonies.
The ceremony is a way of saying goodbye to loved ones.