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Forgotten Mourners: Children's Grief Awareness Week

Updated: Jul 2, 2022

November is Worldwide Bereaved Siblings Month. Children’s Grief Awareness Week UK, 15th - 21st November 2019, founded by childhood bereavement charity Grief Encounter, is designed to raise awareness of bereaved children and young people in the UK, and how providing those affected with the right support can make the world of difference to their future. International Children’s Grief Awareness Day on 21st November is a global day designed to help us all become more aware of the needs of grieving children — and of the benefits they obtain through the support of others. These might seem a perfunctory nod to the reality that many live with every day of the year, but, given how grieving children are often described as 'Forgotten Mourners', I believe they are an important chance for us to come together in recognition of children's grief, as well as those who are working hard to help them and their families. We can demonstrate solidarity with grieving children, young people and their families in their community; raise awareness of their needs and how to help.

So often people can feel helpless in the face of the death of a baby, not knowing what to say or do. The theme of this year's Children's Grief Awareness Week is #lostforwords. We know that baby loss can be an incredibly difficult subject to talk about even amongst adults let alone with children. These Precious Little People was written to help families open up conversations about what happened and the grief that ensues, as well as giving bereaved children and young people some of the language and tools they might need to talk about and process their emotions in connection with the baby/babies who died.

Hearing the voices of families where children have been affected by the death of a baby can help us better understand how we can support them. All this week I will be sharing stories as part of a series shining a light on an aspect of baby loss that is not often spoken about. If you would like your family's story to be featured on my blog during this week (or beyond) please get in touch. I have also put together a sibling support pack that can be added to your order of These Precious Little People from the JOEL - The Complete Package shop. The extra items have been thoughtfully put together for any child affected by the death of a baby - but they can of course be for adults too. Included is a beautiful Rainbow & Stars iron-on patch (for a blanket, bag, item of clothing, pencil case, etc), and a gorgeous Rainbow & Stars 6x4" foil print from Foiled by Design with the Oscar Wilde quote: “When it rains look for rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars” - a reminder to keep searching for beauty and meaning even in the depths of grief, and to hold onto hope that there will be brighter days ahead. Please get in touch to enquire about ordering these additional items.

It's our instinct to protect children from the harsh realities of life, and arguably the death of a baby is one of the cruellest hands Mother Nature can play. Anticipating the arrival of a baby is usually seen as an unequivocally joyous and exciting time, but one that be filled with mixed emotions for children - they might be thrilled by the news and enthusiastic about welcoming a new baby into the family, but they might also feel unsure about what their place will then be and worry that this new little person will consume everyone's attention and love. It is difficult to imagine the sense of confusion, anger, sadness, even guilt that can be felt by a child if that baby dies. What was talked about so excitedly, eagerly, happily, is then only spoken about in hushed, sorrowful tones; there are tears rather than smiles, a teddy bear from a memory box to cuddle instead of a new baby. Children could well be too young to realise exactly what it is that has been lost, but even if it's not immediately apparent, over time their knowledge and understanding will inevitably develop and this can bring fresh challenges even when the raw grief may have faded for many of the adults around them.

My hope is that with more of us talking about the grief felt by the whole family, we can all feel better-equipped to seek or offer support; to more readily and confidently give it, and more frequently be the recipient of it. I have written before (here and here) about why I think it's so important for us to accept that children have a right to remember precious little people within their families who have died and to grieve along with us if they need to. You can read more about how to talk to children about death and find further support here.



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