Growing Up Grieving: The National Childhood Bereavement Project Final Report

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growing up grieving A report by the National Childhood Bereavement Project #growingupgrieving

Some of the people with lived experience who engaged in the Project asked us to recognise their loved ones who have died. This report is dedicated to their memory.

Aaron Murphy

Ahmar Javed

Albert Anderson

Alex Pope

Amanda Jane Sime

Anne Caldwell

Anne Craig

Asim Mian

Callum McLennan

David Collins

David William Rouse

Douglas Marshall

Eric McArthur

Fiona McMillan

For Grandad, love Jack

Garry McPherson

Gavin Colquhoun

Below: Rosneath Primary - Children aged 7-11 from Rosneath Primary in Argyll and Bute created a memory garden to remind them of the people in their lives that have died.

Grace Macdonald

Granda McNair

Granny Harriet

Gregor Sterry

Ian Caldwell

Jack Mulholland Boyd

John Copeland Nagle

John Philip Large

Josie (Johanna) Dempsey

Julia Samuels

Julie Wilson

Karen Stephen Kenneth Scott

Lucy McKeand nee Hannay

Marie Queen

Martha Marshall

Millicent McConachie

Neil Brownlie

Pamela Killoh

Pappa Andy Patrick Smith

Paul Gallagher

Paul Wilson

Sandra Wood

Sandy Macdonald

Scott Livingstone

Stewart Neil Stuart Neil

Stuart Thompson

Thomas Miller

Tommy McCourt

Valerie Flannigan

Yvonne Murphy

Over the last 18 months I have led the National Childhood Bereavement Project with a passion to make a positive, long-lasting difference for children and young people who are bereaved.

In this time, I have met with over 350 incredible people, each with their own experiences and views on how Scotland can become a nation that holistically supports its grieving citizens. Across all of these conversations, there has been a repeated, underlying call to action – that all of us must proactively prepare for ourselves, and those around us, being bereaved.

I have always been open with the fact that my determination for this project stems from my own personal experiences. When I was 14, my mum died, and I felt like everything I knew, and found comfort in, withered away overnight. For years after I struggled to find my place in the world without my mum, and at times felt consumed by despair and hopelessness.

I could have never imagined that this is where my career would take me – leading a national project to improve support for children and young people who have been bereaved – in part because I did not know how many other people like me, were growing up grieving.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all those who contributed to the Project, and in particular to those who shared their lived experience in the hope that things will improve for others who have been bereaved. It is my honour to dedicate this report to some of their loved ones who have died.

Denisha Killoh Project Lead a word
from Denisha
contents Explaining terms Chief Executive Foreword Background to includem Introduction Setting the Scene Project Reach Project Timeline A Report by the National Childhood Bereavement Project 01 02 03 04 06 08 09 before - Conversations about death - Pre-bereavement support - The role of schools - Being proactive before a bereavement 16 17 19 20 23 at the time - Emotional needs - Practical needs - Financial needs growing up grieving after - Defining grief - How grief changes you - Recognising symptoms of grief - Where to turn? Conclusions A thank you 24 25 30 37 39 40 41 42 47 60 73

bereavement childhood family

By ‘bereavement’ we are referring to the death of someone important in the life of a child or young person.

the project

This is the shortened version we use to refer to the National Childhood Bereavement Project.

We define ‘childhood’ as up to the age of 26.

When we refer to a ‘family’, we see this as determined by the child or young person themselves, including anyone significant to them beyond their immediate birth families.

supporting adult

We see this as any adult with a role in supporting a young person, this goes beyond parents or carers to also include people like teachers, neighbours, and charity workers.

people with lived experience

People with lived experience are people with direct first-hand experience, past or present, of childhood bereavement.

explaining terms What we mean when we say...

It makes me proud to write a foreword for this most important piece of work. I am proud of the team at includem for the effort they have put in, of the professionals for their input, especially their attendance at roundtable events, of the Scottish Government for their foresight in commissioning this work, but most importantly I am proud of all the people who contributed their personal experiences of childhood bereavement. For want of a better phrase – their input brings life to this project, giving it a rich context and understanding that will allow us all to support people experiencing childhood bereavement with more understanding and courage.

I urge everyone to read this report and to think about the role that they can play in helping our society, not just our children and young people, to deal with bereavement in a much healthier and more understanding way.

On a personal level, this project resonates with my own experience. As a 16-year-old I watched my mother die of cancer. When she died, I was just about to sit my ‘O Levels’. The school’s advice was ‘to focus’ on passing my exams as that is what my mother would expect. I was told that my mother had gone to a ‘better place’ and had passed away peacefully. Given that my mother had died at home, slowly and painfully, this did not help me to understand, nor deal

with it. Five years later my father died, and again the discussion was around him passing away and that I, as a 21-year-old, needed to ‘man up’ and deal with it myself. Much of the Project shows that societally, this reaction to dealing with death at a young age is still prevalent and that these attitudes do not stop with children but continues into adulthood and beyond.

The Project explored six key themes: Covid-19, Conversations Around Death, Training and Education, Rebuilding Lives, Mapping Support, Responses to Grief. For me, these themes encompass the challenges and nuances of dealing with bereavement for children and young people. It could be argued that there are other themes that should have been included, and I would not dispute this, but I believe these ones encapsulate childhood bereavement in a strong, pointed manner. Covid-19 has and continues to have a devastating impact on our society. Conversations around death, like my own 40 years ago, are still avoided, or in many ways just not sufficient. Support is difficult to find and even more difficult to navigate. Training and education on bereavement must improve, as we still misunderstand people’s responses to grief.

This report highlights the differing levels of service, the various sources of funding, the lack of national data, and the difficulty in obtaining a national picture of bereavement services

and support across Scotland. It recognises the nuances of dealing with bereavement both individually and societally. What is clear throughout is that there can be no one size fits all response. What is required is a carefully crafted response that starts at a national level, incorporates lived experiences, develops through our public services, and is properly funded and sustainable.

There are many issues facing our society: climate change, poverty, cost of living, but this report shows some clear steps that can be taken so that we do not make bad situations even worse. Bereavement is a societal issue, and we will be letting our communities down if we do not adopt a whole systems approach to supporting someone who is grieving.

I commend everyone who took part in this project, and thank them for their time, effort, honesty, and experiences, that they so powerfully shared. I’d like to extend my thanks to everyone at includem who was involved in the Project for all their hard work too.


Includem is a specialist charity with over 22 years expertise in supporting children, young people, & families from Scotland’s most deprived areas. We provide trusted relationship-based practical, social & emotional 1:1 support to over 600 children, young people & families annually.

Our services range from early intervention and prevention to crisis support. We work in collaboration with social work, police, schools, employment, health and community partners to ensure we reach those who need us most and influence change in practice.

In March 2020 includem were awarded the contract to deliver the National Childhood Bereavement Project by the Scottish Government. Includem has expertise in supporting children and young people who have experienced bereavement and a track record in collaborating with other organisations to ensure children and young people receive the right support, by the right people at the right time for them.

The Project has taken a strategic oversight of childhood bereavement support services across Scotland, whilst championing the needs and rights of all children who have experienced bereavement with the aim of improving the capacity of families and the children’s sector and education workforce, to respond to children and young people’s needs appropriately. All of us at includem are proud to have delivered this work over the last 18 months and we look forward to building upon its legacy. to includem

Mission: To provide the support young people need to make positive changes in their lives, and inspire a more hopeful future for them, their families, and communities.

Vision: A world where every young person is respected, valued, and has opportunity to actively participate in all aspects of life and society.

Includem’s support is holistic - working across a range of challenges including poverty and destitution, trauma, mental wellbeing, emotional literacy, drug/alcohol misuse, youth justice and educational wellbeing. Our support is shaped by young people; responding to their individual needs, and the needs of their families in the community they live in. This enables them to make lasting positive changes and become independent of services. We support those who mainstream services find difficult to engage by finding the best ways to build trust and support sustainable changes.

includem 03


There has never been a more pertinent time to understand how Scotland can holistically support children and young people who are grieving.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought issues of death, dying, and bereavement into sharp focus. While the long-term consequences of the pandemic are still uncertain, we can already see the initial effects of profound nation-wide grief1.

Being bereaved is difficult at any age, but for children & young people who are at a key stage in their development, it can be particularly hard to navigate growing up while grieving.

Recent studies show that 62% of children will be bereaved of a close family member by age 102, and since the start of the pandemic almost one quarter of children aged 2-11 have experienced the death (by any cause) of someone in their lives3. Despite this evidence of widespread grief, the current picture of childhood bereavement in Scotland still underestimates its true prevalence and impact – particularly into teenage years, and where deaths occur outside the immediate family.

There has been a longstanding commitment from bereavement services, local authorities, third sector organisations, and practitioners in education and health, to understand how bereavement during childhood is experienced and supported. These efforts evidenced the need for a project with a national remit to advise on what can be done to improve support for children and young people who have been bereaved in Scotland – paving the way for the National Childhood Bereavement Project to be created.



3. port-2-play-learning-and-experience-of-infection-control-measures.pdf

“ ”
When it isn’t happening to us, we don’t want to think about bereavement happening to anyone.

Over the last two years, the Project has engaged with 100 people with lived experience of childhood bereavement and over 250 people with a role in supporting bereaved children and young people.

This report is the culmination of that work, containing key findings and recommendations on how Scotland can ensure that all children and young people are aware of what grief looks and feels like for them and for those around them, and are able to access support as and when they need it. This report uses a mixture of ways to illustrate the experiences the Project heard, using direct quotes, case studies (called ‘spotlights’ throughout the report), and three stories which are not real but written to reflect generalised versions of some of the journeys through grief we listened to.

The Project has, at every stage, sought to communicate in a way which is relatable to children and young people.

As a result, this report has been written and designed in a way to honour this commitment. Some of the language used throughout the report is written to mirror the language used by the children and young people we heard from and may, as result, read somewhat informally.

The main body of the report is split into the three stages children and young people used to describe bereavement in our Timeline of Support work: before a bereavement; at the time of a bereavement; after a bereavement.

With the publication of this report, comes the end of the National Childhood Bereavement Project. However, we cannot lose sight of the aim to ensure Scotland becomes a nation that holistically supports all children and young people who are, or will come to be bereaved. There is no one body or organisation that can single-handedly achieve this ambition, therefore all of us from everyday citizens to bereavement organisations have a role to play – starting with a commitment from the Scottish Government to build upon the Project’s legacy and deliver the recommendations in this report.


This is reflected in the age ranges of several child bereavement services and charities, who only offer support to those under the age of 18. setting the scene

During our initial engagement stage, people in their early 20s spoke of being bereaved in their early childhood but only years later being in a place to talk about it. When we explored why this was the case, some shared that they felt they did not have the emotional capacity to process what happened at the time of someone dying so instead tried to ‘block it out’.

To establish the scope of the Project we first had to define what we meant by ‘childhood’. Under the UN Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), those under the age of 18 are classed as children.

A 21-year-old whose mum had died when she was 10 told us that she had spent years trying to forget her mum because losing her was too painful to accept. However, suppression of her grief ultimately led to a crisis point in her mental health, something she only came to realise at age 20. By this point she was excluded from many services specialising in childhood bereavement in her area because she was over 18. She told us:

“You can’t put time limits on grief, it took me 10 years before I was ready to talk about it.”

It was conversations such as this which inspired the Project to look at childhood beyond the age of 18. Precedence for entitlement to support for children and young people going beyond the age of 18 can be found in Guidance on Part 10 (Aftercare) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, which extends the eligibility of care leavers accessing Aftercare services to “continue to receive support up to their twenty-sixth birthday”4 . Therefore, by looking at childhood bereavement up to the age of 26, we were able to encompass those who experience delayed childhood grief in their later years and what this means for their entitlement to services.

childhood Guidance on Part 10 (Aftercare) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 - (


Research of childhood bereavement focuses predominantly on bereavements within the immediate family, however children and young people we engaged with also emphasised the importance of wider relationships such as foster carers, neighbours, friends, and teachers.

Shay’s story reflects real experiences we heard about the ways that arbitrary definitions of ‘close’ or ‘significant’ relationships can invalidate grief experienced by children and young people. As such, the Project ensured that children and young people themselves determined the bereavements that were significant to them during engagement sessions.

Shay is 15 and lives in a residential children’s home. He has a best friend called Fin who used to live at the home with him until he moved out when he was 16. Fin died a few weeks ago.

Shay feels like he cannot talk to anyone about how he is feeling, he misses Fin a lot. He has National 5 exams next week but is struggling to focus. His school says they cannot offer extenuating circumstances because Fin did not go to his school and is not a member of his family. What they don’t realise is that Fin was the closest thing he has ever had to a brother. shay’s story


The National Childhood Bereavement Project utilised social media and digital communications as an awareness raising tool. Through regularly updating the Project’s webpage on the includem website, and the distribution of a Project newsletter, people were continuously informed about its progress.

Across includem’s Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts, posts relating to the Project generated record high impressions. On her Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, Denisha’s posts about the Project gained popularity and helped her to connect with a wide range of people with lived experience of childhood bereavement. Further to this, the Project was featured during a segment on BBC’s Reporting Scotland and written about in two published articles – one in the Holyrood Magazine and the other in The Herald. In April 2022, Denisha won Young Scot’s Unsung Hero of the Year award for her work as the Project Lead.

1,490 includem 72 4,162 42 105 210,490 webpage views since 2021 project related tweets total number of engagements project related LinkedIn posts newsletter subscribers total number of impressions project reach 10 project related tweets 6,508 147,146 total number of engagements impressions 18,404 impressions 08

The National Childhood Bereavement project was delivered in four key stages.project timeline

desk-based research

A period of desk-based research to gather data on the types of services available for children and young people who have been bereaved in Scotland.

sector roundtables

Roundtable discussions were held to explore six key themes with people who work with bereaved children and young people across Scotland.

initial engagement

Relationship building with a range of people including those who have lived experience, their parent(s) or carer(s), and those who have a role in supporting children and young people who have been bereaved such as teachers or charity workers.

timeline of support

Working with people with lived experience to hear their journeys through grief and capture what they think future bereavement support should look and feel like.



the survey asked questions about:

• The area the service operates in and whether it was single-area, multi-area or nation-wide

The Project was initiated as Scotland faced a nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19. As a result of restrictions on in-person meetings and engagements, and with many bereavement services in the process of adapting their services, an internal team at includem undertook an initial period of desk-based research to gather data on childhood bereavement services in Scotland.

From researching online and contacting local authorities and health boards, 105 organisations that provided relevant services for bereaved children and young people were identified. After responding to initial contact from the desk-based research team, 23 of these organisations completed an online survey developed to understand the current landscape of service provision.

• Types of services that were delivered (e.g., one-to-one counselling, play therapy, peer support groups)

• The criteria to access the service (such as age range and type of bereavement) and the referral process (e.g., self-referral, agency referral or referral by parents and carers)

• Their work with children and young people (such as how many they support on average per year, and how long they provide support to each person)

• The funding sources used to sustain the service (fundraising, grants, donations, contracts)

• The type of people delivering the service (e.g., paid staff or volunteers) desk-based research

research (May –September 2020) stage 1

• Out of the 23 services, ten only operated within a single-area, eight were nation-wide and five operated across the central-belt

• The range of services available varied significantly, with some offering online chat support or text messaging services, some delivering accredited therapeutic models, and others using art-based therapy through memory box work

• Two services only worked with under 16s, eight worked with those up to the age of 18, five worked with people below the age of 25, one worked up to 26 and seven offered support for all ages, including adults

• Ten reported their main source of referrals coming from agencies, eight were predominately referred by parents or carers, five were self-referral the key findings from the survey were:

• For those operating in single area, they could support as little as six people each year, but nation-wide charities could support up to 600 people per year

• Smaller charities reported offering support for longer, sometimes seeing children and young people for different time periods across a number of years

• Out of the 23 services, 12 reported relying predominantly on fundraising or donations from their local community

• Two services relied solely on volunteers to deliver their work


Despite the best efforts of the desk-based research team and the survey responses above from the 23 organisations, a comprehensive picture on the services operating across Scotland could not be created. As there is not a central database that collects data on childhood bereavement services in Scotland, the desk-based research team relied on their own online searches and word of mouth to gain their information. This spoke to a wider issue of how childhood bereavement lacks a strategic, national focus making the sector disjointed. The desk-based research team concluded their work by identifying several issues that prevented the sector from operating to its fullest extent. This included:

• Disparities in service provision across Scotland, with most predominantly being central belt focused

• Difficulties in children and young people accessing support, with long waiting lists and extensive referral processes

• Limited funding streams, with funders lacking focus on bereavement and smaller charities lacking the capacity to submit funding applications

• The sector lacking in coordination because of there being no overall strategic approach to childhood bereavement from the Scottish Government

Overall, the team reported that these issues evidenced the need for a new approach to coordinating the childhood bereavement sector. The barriers listed above were felt to not only stand in the way of people delivering childhood bereavement services, but also in preventing children and young people from being able to access the right support at the right time.

In September 2020, Denisha Killoh was appointed as Project Lead of the National Childhood Bereavement Project.

Denisha, 21 at the time of appointment, has lived experience of childhood bereavement due to being bereaved of her mum at age 14. Through appropriate self-disclosure, Denisha was able to share her own experiences with children and young people who engaged with the Project, and ultimately create a trusting and open environment for others to share their experiences.

The initial engagement phase was delivered predominantly online given the Covid-19 restrictions. In this time, 60 one-to-one meetings were held with a range of people including those who have lived experience, their parent(s) or carer(s), and those who have a role in supporting children and young people who have been bereaved such as teachers, charity workers, hospice workers, and NHS staff.

Through this initial engagement phase, we identified six themes which required further exploration:

1. Covid-19 Conversations Around Death and Education Lives to engagement

Initial Engagement (September –December 2020) stage 2
3. Training
4. Rebuilding
5. Mapping Support 6. Responses
Grief initial


During this phase of the Project, we hosted online roundtable discussions to explore the six themes identified during the initial engagement period. The themes of Covid-19, Conversations Around Death, Training & Education were explored over two roundtables, with one session taking place for each of the remaining themes of Rebuilding Lives, Mapping Support and Responses to Grief.

Each themed session was co-designed and cofacilitated by the Project Lead and a collaborator who was appointed based on their expertise in the field.

All of the roundtables were open to attendance for anyone with experience of working with bereaved children and young people in Scotland.

The roundtables began with a presentation from the collaborator(s) to give context to the theme followed by attendees going into smaller groups in breakout rooms for discussion on guiding questions.

A summary of each roundtable is detailed:


• Collaborators: Donna Hastings (Child and Families Lead, St Columba’s Hospice Care) and Dr Catriona Macpherson (Children and Families Practitioner, Fife Special Palliative Care)

• Questions:

1. What lessons have you learned from adapting your services?

2. What are the differences in experiencing grief before March 2020 and after March 2020?

3. What are the impacts of grief on individual and family systems during lockdown?

4. What are your experiences of how people are able to use bereavement services during the pandemic?

training and education

• Collaborator: David Duncan (Teacher and Doctorate of Education Student, University of Strathclyde)

• Questions:

1. What resources already exist within education and how can communities draw on and develop these to improve experiences for bereaved children and young people?

2. How do we address the current gaps in providing effective support, through education and training, to grieving young people and their families?

Roundtables (January –November 2021) stage 3

conversations around death

• Collaborator: Rebecca Patterson (Director of Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief)

• Questions:

1. What are the ways that society/culture influence children and young people’s experiences of bereavement in Scotland?

2. How can we equip communities to feel confident supporting young people who’ve been bereaved?

3. How do we empower young people who’ve been bereaved to ask for help and know what to do?

4. Have you got any examples of a place/ community/imitative set up to support or improve the experiences of young people who’ve been bereaved? What have been the strengths and/or weaknesses?

responses to grief

• Collaborators: Nina Vaswani (Research Lead, Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice), Sue Brookes (Interim Director of Strategy & Stakeholder Engagement, Scottish Prison Service and Sheena Orr (Chaplaincy Advisor, Scottish Prison Service)

• Questions:

1. What do the workforce need to feel ready and able to support bereaved children and young people?

2. How can those working with children and young people recognise their symptoms of grief?

3. How can we support the workforce to aid the recovery of grieving young people?

4. How do we nurture children and young people to build resilience after a bereavement, encouraging post-traumatic growth?

rebuilding lives

Collaborators: Alison Blair (Bereavement Project Lead, CHAS) and Amanda Reid (Bereavement Project and Chaplaincy Lead, CHAS)

• Questions:

The ‘Rebuilding Lives’ roundtable was the only one to follow a different format. Instead of having questions to explore, the session mirrored a Death Café. This allowed for an informal setting to openly and honestly explore people’s experiences on death, dying and bereavement and how this influences their roles in supporting bereaved children and young people

mapping support

• Collaborators: Nicola Reed (Area Manager, Cruse Scotland & At A Loss Ambassador for Scotland), and Isabel Shaver (Educational Psychologist, Highland Council Psychology Service)

• Questions:

1. How equipped is your local Community in responding to a young person’s grief?”

2. Are there specific local needs in communities around bereavement? How are these met or unmet?

3. How do we equip every Scottish community (large and small) to feel confident in supporting bereaved children and young people?

In total, 95 people attended the series of roundtable discussions. The attendees came from a mixture of professional backgrounds, some of which were not explicitly focused on child bereavement but had involvement in the lives of bereaved children and young people. The findings from these discussions were analysed to identify the key issues facing those supporting bereaved children and young people.

While the roundtable events were attended solely by people with experience of working with bereaved children and young people, the Project ensured that individual engagement with those who have lived experience – and the supporting adults in their lives – still took place. This ensured that we continued to establish trusting relationships to support the delivery of the next phase of the Project.



timeline of support

Throughout the first year of the Project, there was a significant focus on relationship-building with those with lived experience and the supporting adults in their lives. During this engagement it became clear that an open and flexible approach was required to hear the perspectives of people bereaved during their childhood in a way that was comfortable for them. As a result, the Project co-designed session plans with those who have lived experience to enable people to share their journey through grief in a way that is comfrotable to them. This explored what is working, what is not, and what people with lived experience would like to see change at three stages of a bereavement (before, at the time, after). We called this work the ‘Timeline of Support’.

There were different ways that those with lived experience could engage with the Timeline of Support. Some sessions took place in the form of focus groups delivered by the Project Lead, for example there were two in-person events in 2022 – one at Bannockburn Primary with the Seasons for Growth P6-7s group, and one meet-up in Glasgow co-hosted with Let’s Talk About Loss. Other engagement included one-to-one sessions between the Project Lead and people with lived experience and ‘train the trainer’ sessions for supporting adults to enable them to deliver their own oneto-one sessions with the children and young people in their lives. The sessions were also converted into a Menti presentation that was completed by 40 people and shared across social media with a call for open submissions from which we received text-based submissions, written stories and drawings from children and young people.

This stage ran from October 2021 to February 2022 and gathered the views of over 100 people from across Scotland. The ages of those who participated varied from eight to 65 – almost all of whom had been bereaved between the ages of four and 26. However, three people who contacted the Project during this stage had been bereaved between the ages of 27-30 and shared their experiences, in particular highlighting a lack of available support for this age cohort who are bereaved of a parent or carer.

of Support (October 2021 –February 2022) stage 4

The period of life before someone has died. We asked people with lived experience to share what they wished they knew before they were bereaved. Some of these reflections were from people who had recently been bereaved, and others were from people who were bereaved years ago. Regardless of where people were in their grief journey, most shared similar experiences of feeling unprepared when someone in their lives died –wishing that they knew what to expect. When the Project asked what could better prepare a child or young person for being bereaved, we received two common answers: more open and honest conversations about death in their daily life, and schools educating all children and young people on dying and death and bereavement. before


conversations about death

The Project spoke with adults who shared candidly that they avoided talking about death with the children and young people in their lives to protect them from the harsh realities of a world in which the people they love are not alive anymore.

We also heard from adults that worried about ‘saying the wrong thing’ to children and young people when someone in their life was dying or had died so, instead, they shut down the conversation or said nothing. Although these adults acted with their best intentions, the Project heard first-hand experiences from children and young people about how this avoidance tactic actually contributed to their inability to process grief at a later stage in their life.

“I didn’t hear the word grief until I was in high school and even then, I still didn’t know that I was grieving”

When adults do talk to children and young people about death, their language is often softened. However, this can have unintended consequences on a child’s understanding about the reality of death.

For example, the Project heard that being told someone had “gone to sleep” when they died made children scared that when anyone they love goes to bed, they might not wake up in the morning.

Similarly, referring to a person who has died as being ‘lost’ – e.g. “I’m sorry you’ve lost them” – was reported to have been misconstrued by children as someone being able to come back to life if they are found, creating false hope. Other expressions which avoid using the explicit words to describe death, such as “they’ve passed away”, can be unhelpful as it may confuse a child’s understanding of the permanent nature of death.

By not having open and honest conversations with children and young people about the people in their lives dying, they can feel isolated and unsupported when they are bereaved. Those we spoke to made it clear that the tactics adults used to ‘protect’ them from the truth deepened their sense of grief. For example, a few young people discussed finding out someone in their lives had cancer. They assumed the process would be similar to film depictions where someone is diagnosed, they slowly get unwell, and they then die peacefully in their sleep. However, once they started living the reality, they realised how far removed from the truth this was: “everything about that person changes because of cancer, their voice, their appearance, and their personality all deteriorate in front of you, it’s an ugly, raw process”. These young people felt completely unprepared to witness the deterioration of someone they love and wished that the adults around them were more honest about what to expect.

“I could have really done with everyone being more honest with me… I figured out she had cancer from watching a tv show”

Some people told us that they had a greater understanding of what was happening before someone died than the adults around them thought. Despite being kept out of conversations, they formed an understanding through eavesdropping and googling medical terms they overheard. As a result, they felt angry at being treated as if they were too young to understand. We heard of the pain these young people felt as they described being unable to appreciate their time with someone before they died and being robbed of the opportunity to properly say their goodbyes.


On 16 March 2021, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the UNCRC Bill, which incorporates the UNCRC into Scots law. At the time of writing this report, the UK Supreme Court has sent the bill back to the Scottish Parliament for reconsiderations on how it can be incorporated to the maximum extent possible within the competencies of domestic law.

Spotlight: United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

The ways in which we can offer a children’s rights-based approach to supporting children and young people through bereavement is crucial to ensuring that their voice and needs are respected during the process. Under Article 12 of the UNCRC, all children and young people “have the right to be listened to and taken seriously in all matters affecting them”5 . In the context of bereavement, a children’s rights-based approach means that children and young people should not be dismissed from conversations about someone in their life dying on the grounds of their age. Instead, the UNCRC makes it clear that they should be meaningfully heard with their ‘evolving capacities’ taken into account.

In this sense, evolving capacities means that the weight their view is given is dependent on the extent to which they can understand the issue and the possible outcomes of a decision. For example, if a 8-year-old’s dad is terminally ill, the other adults in the family may want to protect them from the pain of knowing that their dad cannot be cured and will die. However, by shielding children from the reality of a terminal illness, they lose their right to choose how to say goodbye to someone they love. As a result, they are more likely to feel distressed and blindsided when the person dies.

5. UNCRC Article 12 - I have the right to be listened to and taken seriously - CYPCS 18

Spotlight: St Columba’s Hospice Care pre-bereavement support

The Project has heard first-hand experiences from children and young people on how being excluded from pre-bereavement conversations had a detrimental impact on their grief. Throughout the course of the Project, we worked closely with many hospices and specialist palliative care services with experience in providing advocacy to ensure children’s voices and needs are heard when someone important in their life is dying. The services the Project heard from discussed that even very young children can sense when something is wrong or when the people around them are feeling sad. As a result, the services encourage families to tell children and young people about the seriousness of the illness in order to help them understand why family members may be sad and why some things might have changed – for example, why their mum or dad is more tired. They also reported that from their experience, when adults hide their feelings or grief, children can learn that this is what they should do too which affects their ability to process grief in their later life.

It has become common to associate both hospice and palliative care as synonymous with imminent death. As a result, people can be reluctant to access the support hospice and palliative care offer. However, palliative care can span many years and exists to alleviate a person’s pain and increase their quality of life. Offering comfort to patients and their loved ones is an integral part of the work they do, which is why hospices and specialist palliative care are such an essential part of pre-bereavement support. Through their compassionate and holistic approach to supporting the whole family, they offer opportunities for patients and their loved ones to be included in decisions and prepared for what lies ahead to make it easier to live with a terminal illness.

St Columba’s Hospice Care provides hospice and end-of-life care for people with incurable illnesses and support for their families.

They provide care in people’s homes and local communities, boast a state-of-the-art hospice facility, and work with a range of partners to drive education and further research. They are committed to looking after the whole family, recognising that coping with an illness and the changes it brings can be a huge challenge for everyone. The Family Support Team offers care, advice and support for children and young people affected by the incurable illness of any adult in their lives with information that is honest, timely and appropriate for their age and stage of development.


Spotlight: Seasons for Growth

Seasons for Growth has helped children, young people and adults in Scotland since 2001 to develop an understanding of the impact of change, loss and grief and explores how they can learn to live with and grow from these experiences. In this time, they have trained over 7,500 Companions to deliver the programme in areas across Scotland, most often delivered in schools through voluntary agencies.

In 2017, researchers looked at the impact of Seasons for Growth and measured its results against the Curriculum for Excellence Health and Wellbeing outcomes6. The study, which included 75 pupil participants, 35 parent participants and 64 teacher participants in total from Inverclyde, Falkirk, West Dunbartonshire, and Highland, reported a significant improvement across all health and wellbeing measures for children and young people after they had attended a Seasons for Growth group. In particular, the peer support programme was found to have increased the emotional resilience of children and young people and their sense of belonging by normalising their experiences through listening to others’ stories and helping them to realise that they were not alone.

the role of schools

The Project listened to the experiences of those who were bereaved during their school career and those working within schools. It became clear that bereavement support within schools, education on dying, death and bereavement for children and young people in schools, and bereavement training for school staff differed significantly in each individual school across Scotland – creating a substantial disparity. As schools are where children and young people spend the majority of their formative years, it is imperative that schools in Scotland create an environment where all children and young people are able to learn about dying, death, and bereavement in a developmentally appropriate way, and are supported through the grief process if they are bereaved.

“I remember I told my teacher a wee while after that my friend had been killed. She looked really shocked but she didn’t ask me anything or say anything to do with it, just handed over my workbook. It would have helped I think if she could have even asked how I felt.”

As part of the Project’s work to understand how Scotland’s schools can help facilitate all children and young people developing necessary skills to process grief if they are bereaved, we looked for examples of where this has been done well. The Project engaged with three schools running Seasons for Growth programmes, hearing from primary and secondary pupils aged 8-15 of the positive impact the programmes had on their lives. We also heard from teachers at these three schools about the wider benefit running Seasons for Growth programmes had on normalising dying, death and bereavement in their school community. They reported that having the programme in their school encouraged both pupils and school staff to learn about the programme and ask questions about change, loss and grief, helping them become more aware of how it affects themselves and those around them.

6. Make-an-Impact-AMENDED.docx (

“The Seasons for Growth program has peer support at the heart. As an education programme (and therefore delivered as part of the curriculum) children and young people opt into the programme, they are not ‘referred’ or told they should attend - it is their choice (though for under 12’s with parent/carer agreement). The programme runs over 8 weekly sessions and is delivered by staff who have received special training. Its aim is to educate about the grief process, though in a gentle, interactive, and supportive way.

Children and young people’s ‘stories’ are central to the heart of Seasons for Growth, they are under no pressure to share but, in my experience, they embrace the opportunity to share their feelings, and stories of loss, often for the first time, and to understand they are not the only ones who have experienced the challenges of dealing with loss. Almost every young person I have worked with in Seasons for Growth groups has said in their evaluations at the end of the programme that every child should get an opportunity to participate in a Seasons for Growth group if they need this.

For these children, having a place to go within school, and a person they can touch base with when things are tough, who can talk about the hard things and not be afraid to, is so important and really can be a lifeline. As a Trainer, but also working full time in schools, I’m very aware of the pressures (e.g. to release staff for the mandatory 2 day training, to timetable in sessional slots for 8 weeks and staff cover for those involved in the groups, to support staff who set up and ‘companion’ the groups) but, for those who manage to do so, the feedback from children/young people/ parents/carers and staff demonstrates it’s so worth it.”

One teacher, who is also a Seasons for Growth trainer, spoke of the positive impact running the programme in her school had on her bereaved pupils:

We also heard from young people themselves about the impact attending these groups had on building emotional resilience and normalising their experiences of grief:

“When I came into P7 there was a Seasons for Growth group. I wanted to go but I was scared to at the same time. The Seasons teacher spoke to me and told me who was going, so I felt a bit better. There were seven of us. It was great. I didn’t know other people had had really sad things in their lives too and we could know sort of how each other felt but not have to explain it all too much.

I think a lot of boys and girls would feel a bit like I did –nothing can be worse than your mum or dad dying.

I think it would have helped me to know that although it was like the end of the world that it really wasn’t and there will be some good things later too… Some teachers in school really helped me but some didn’t understand. It would help children if all the adults in the school got taught that when your mum or dad die it’s very hard to think about work and that can go on for ages. It doesn’t just suddenly go away one day and you’re ok.

I have in my journal what I wrote at the end which is ‘I wish I had done this ages ago’ and the Seasons teacher said ‘this was the right time for you’”


being proactive before a bereavement

Death is unavoidable and at some point in all of our lives we will come to be bereaved.

In order to create a Scotland that holistically supports people who are bereaved, we must proactively prepare for the possibility of being bereaved before it happens. This is why becoming a grief-aware nation starts with children and young people – only through universally equipping them with comprehensive knowledge of dying, death and bereavement and the necessary skills to process their grief can this be achieved. To do this, we all have a role to play in having more open and honest conversations with the people in our lives about our own deaths, and dying more generally, to break down the taboo of being bereaved, particularly for children and young people. As schools guide children and young people through the formative years of their lives, they too play a key role in ensuring that children and young people are prepared for the possibility of being bereaved.

“ ”
We should prepare for grief like we prepare for a fire in schools, proactively preparing people for the possibility that they are bereaved instead of being reactive when it’s too late.

The period of life at the time of being bereaved and the immediate first few weeks after.

Every person the Project spoke to who had been bereaved had a different experience of grief. For some of the people, their grief was all consuming and overwhelming, and for others it lingered with them as they carried on with their life. We also heard that for some people, the way they experienced grief felt constantly in flux from point of bereavement, changing its form day by day.

This left us with a question – if there is no default experience of grief, how can we develop effective support for all children and young people who are grieving? We asked people with lived experience of childhood bereavement this question. From their responses, we were able to generalise the needs that must be met when someone is bereaved into three categories: emotional needs practical needs financial needs. at the time


emotional needs

This quote represents a common reflection shared by people who are recently bereaved. Many who engaged with the Project reported undergoing a process of self-reflection, considering how they could have better supported people in their lives who were bereaved in the past. They felt that due to a culture of avoiding talking about death – particularly prior to a bereavement – people are ill-prepared both for managing their own grief, and for supporting others.

You never truly know how to support someone who is grieving until it happens to you.
“ ”

reflections from those who have lived it

The Project wanted to find ways to enable people without lived experience of bereavement to feel confident in supporting people who are grieving.

From our conversations with people who had been bereaved, we have created a guide from their reflections on how to meet the emotional needs of someone who is grieving.

However, it is important to remember that as grief is a personal journey, what works for some people will not work for others. As such, these reflections should be used only as a starting point.


acknowledge it

“People don’t want to say the wrong thing, so they say nothing. It’s okay not to know what to say, but at least acknowledge that it’s happened”

“I was grieving, and my friends ‘left’ because we were still at that age where it wasn’t fun to be around someone who was sad”

“After he died no one brought him up to me again. I didn’t want to make my pals feel uncomfortable or burden them, so I just didn’t speak about it. I was just angry all the time, probably because I was bottling it all up”

Some of the children and young people the Project heard from told us stories of how the people in their lives became more distant when they were bereaved, often for fear out of saying or doing the ‘wrong thing’. As a result, these people did not acknowledge the bereavement and avoided conversations about the person who had died. Children and young people felt that this made an already difficult time harder, isolating them from the people they needed the most. As a result, many of them felt a need to ‘hide’ their grief to avoid making the people around them feel uncomfortable.

“ ”

People with lived experience shared that something as simple as a text from their friends acknowledging the fact someone had died or expressing their sympathies reassured them that they were supported by those around them and did not have to supress their grief.

It doesn’t matter what you say or do, just be kind and caring. The worst thing you can do is say nothing and never acknowledge it has happened.

Children and young people emphasised the importance of people around them ‘checking in’ on a regular basis. In the early days of being bereaved, the Project heard stories of how people lacked the mental capacity to be present in their surroundings, even struggling with completing simple daily tasks. During this period, people experiencing grief require extra support, but some may try not to express their grief outwardly out of fear of making those around them uncomfortable. As such, it is important for them to have reassurance from the people in their lives that they are still there whenever they need it.

“I was just told ‘we know your dad has died’ from my teachers but there was no follow up or offer of support. It was never mentioned again even when it was obvious, I was struggling”

It was also noted that when checking in, it should be made clear that there is no pressure for the grieving person to immediately engage and that there is no time limit to the support offered. Opening messages with phrases such as: ‘no pressure to reply but…’ was seen as a supportive way to engage with grieving friends.

“After the first month or so, people stopped asking if I was okay. I went back to school; I could have a laugh with my mates, so it seemed like I was. I wish people knew that there is no timeline to grief. It doesn’t go away, ever. It grows and changes with you and can hit you out the blue. I still need to know I can lean on people when it gets too much” in

Further to this, children and young people felt it helped when people took note of significant times of the year when they might need extra support.

This could be the anniversary of when a person died, their birthday, or celebrated days like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. One young person told us: “check in even on the happy days like the grieving individual birthday, graduation and weddings etc, I sometimes find them the hardest because behind your smile there is a lurking thought that the ones that died should be here with you”.


“Just be honest, say that you don’t understand but reassure me that you’re there for me”

Those who engaged with the Project told us that they wanted people who do not have lived experience of bereavement to know that when they are faced with someone in their lives grieving, they do not need to have all the answers or fix anything. They recognised that it is normal for people to feel awkward, or to not know what to say if they have never been in the situation themselves. People with lived experience shared that the best thing to do in this situation is to be honest about not knowing what to do but reassuring the person that they are still there for them. One young person told us: “it’s validating to hear that ‘it’s shit’ because it is. I don’t want someone to fix the fact she’s dead, I just want them to recognise my pain”.

“ ”

It’s validating to hear that ‘it’s sh*t’ because it is. I don’t want someone to fix the fact she’s dead, I just want them to recognise my pain.

“I just wanted my friends to talk about her instead of waiting for me to bring her up. Like if they asked questions or something it would’ve reassured me they want to hear about her”

“There’s a saying like ‘a person dies twice, once physically and the second time when their name is mentioned the last time’ and it’s so true. People think you don’t want to talk about them because it’s sad but talking about them is what keeps them alive”

Many of the people who spoke to the Project shared that they found talking about the person who had died helpful for healing from their grief. Children and young people felt that this allowed the people in their lives who had died to ‘live on’ in their memories. Those we heard from told us that they liked it when people asked questions about the person who had died, shared any memories of them and continued to use their name. be honest talk about them

our collective responsibility

The above reflections share the same underlying message – that we all have a collective responsibility to educate ourselves in how to support someone who is grieving.

The Project has heard from the people working to provide child bereavement services that there can sometimes be a ‘kneejerk reaction’ when a child or young person has been bereaved where the adults in their lives ask: “what service can we refer them to for help?”. These practitioners told us that although some children and young people do require specialist support from bereavement charities and services, most just want to know that they can lean on the people already in their lives. Therefore, we all have a collective responsibility to take a proactive approach to grief by striving to educate ourselves in how to support ourselves and others in our lives who have been bereaved.


practical needs

At the time of being bereaved, children and young people told the Project about how they struggled to adapt to life without the person who died. For those who were bereaved of a parent or carer, they described instantly experiencing a very noticeable void in their day-to-day-life. This void was caused by the person who was their primary care giver no longer being alive to look after them. As a result, many children and young people felt that their practical needs of having food to eat, clean clothes and a comforting home to live were no longer met.

adapting to a new way of living

One young person who was 12 when their mum died, told us:

“the hardest part of it all was noticing how every part of my life changed after she died. My mum got me up for school every morning, she would iron my school clothes and see me out the door, she was there every day when I came home from school, and we’d watch the telly together when I got in. I didn’t have that routine anymore, I had to do it by myself which just made me miss her more”.

This experience was unfortunately too common for the children and young people that we heard from. Many who spoke to the Project discussed feeling overwhelmed by all the changes that happened because the person who looked after them died. For these children and young people, the changes happened seemingly overnight, as if one day everything had been perfect and normal and the next day everything ‘fell to pieces’ and their homelife had become unstable.


There cannot be a fix for this period in someone’s life, as nothing will bring back the person who has died.

However, people with lived experience told us stories of what the people around them did to alleviate some pressure in the early stages of a bereavement that they found helpful. One person whose dad had died told us: “A lot of friends and family would drop off home cooked meals, they would leave them on our doorstep, so we didn’t have to greet them or thank them face to face. Now looking back that was the best thing anyone could do because the last thing I was thinking about was cooking and making a good meal”. Additionally, we were also told: “My whole world was a mess and my house was too, but I didn’t care. My friend came over and helped me clean, that was the most helpful thing I needed during that time”. Other examples we heard included checking that someone who is recently bereaved has clean clothes, stocking up their fridge and cupboards, or looking after their pets.

These forms of practical support can be crucial in helping recently bereaved children and young people cope. However, some children and young people told us that although they were inundated with people saying things like “let me know if there’s anything I can do”, they did not want to ‘burden’ them by taking them up on the offer. Similarly, others we heard from described not having the mental capacity at the time to know what they needed for themselves. For these reasons, people with lived experience found it helpful when their friends, neighbours or teachers made the first step of offering practical solution like “I can walk your dog after work” rather than waiting for them to ask.

“ ”
She was the most prominent and visible person in my life. The person who I spent the most time with, who did all the looking after. When she died, I kept noticing the things she used to do, and I missed her even more.

what to do when someone dies

“I wish we had family discussions and definite plans; I was left to carry everything”

The Project heard from children and young people who told us that prior to being bereaved, they were not involved in family conversations about funerals and wills, and they had not thought about these things for themselves. As a result, these children and young people felt that it was hard to know where to start with the end-of-life process, putting an enormous amount of pressure on them to figure out what the person who died would have wanted. This was the experience of a young person we spoke to who felt like he was doing his dad a ‘disservice’ when helping to plan his funeral. He told us: “I had to plan everything for my dad’s funeral, that’s not something you should have to do at 18. I was so worried about not giving him the right send-off”.

death admin

“I had to navigate the admin side of it all, there’s a ridiculous amount of people that need to be told when someone dies, each time you need to say the words ‘my mums passed’ you feel it happen all over again”

Death admin refers to the practical steps that must be taken to finalise a person’s death. This includes registering their death and notifying relevant organisations, arranging their funeral, sorting their finances (taxes, benefits, debts), acting on their will and distributing their estate (money, insurance policies, shares, property, personal possessions).

The Project heard from young people who felt blindsided by the new responsibilities required of them after someone had died, particularly when navigating ‘death admin’. One young person shared her experiences of having to unexpectedly step up and become the executor of both of her grandparent’s wills when they died within 7 weeks of each other. She said: “there was no prewarning, I became an executor of two wills at 22… I became the power of attorney and had to deal with solicitors with no help in addition to navigating my final year of university”.

In Scotland, you must begin the death admin process by registering a death within 8 days – this includes weekends and bank holidays.

The UK Government has a ‘ Tell Us Once’ service, which allows you to inform all the relevant government departments when someone dies, including HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the local authority. However, as banks, utility companies, subscription companies and landlords/ letting agents are private entities, they must all be notified individually. Those we heard from that had experience in navigating this process, told us of how time consuming and stressful it was to deal with these companies, particularly if bills were due immediately after someone had died. One person we spoke to became responsible for closing her mum’s accounts after she died. She shared: “some companies weren’t helpful, telling you that they couldn’t let you know how much was owed as you weren’t the named person – the named person is deceased!”. The young people we heard from who had been in this situation described it as ‘soul-destroying’ and ‘heart-breaking’ to have to repeatedly tell companies that their loved one had died and found the process on a whole to be lacking in empathy.


Funeral Link is a charity based in Dundee, which was established in November 2018 in response to needs evidenced by those who have experienced funeral poverty in the community.

Funeral Link aims to prevent funeral poverty through offering confidential independent advice to help people make informed choices and save money on funeral costs. They believe that everyone should have that helping hand of support to navigate the myriad of options which present themselves at what, for many, is the worst time of their life. Funeral Link support some of the most vulnerable families in Dundee, with over half of clients seeking support living in the most deprived 10% of Scotland. In the first two years of operating, Funeral Link supported 222 bereaved clients with a combined total savings of £129,811.

During our Rebuilding Lives roundtable, some of the attendees spoke about how supporting bereaved children and young people in their job had made them realise how important it was to prepare their own family for the event of their death. As a result, they had more open conversations with their loved ones about dying and had done work to prepare them in advance of their death. Some of these attendees discussed creating a ‘death folder’ to make it easier for their family to navigate the aftermath of their death. This folder contained things like relevant documents on their mortgage and pension, and their funeral wishes such as instructions on what type of service to have, what clothes they want to wear and what music they want playing.

Settld is an organisation that was born from a personal experience of bereavement. The founder and CEO, Vicky Wilson states on the Settld website: “The family was still grieving when we had to start the notification process… my mum and I rang company after company, reliving my grandma’s loss with each call. In the end it took us over six hours on the phone, and a further 8 weeks of emails and letters to sort out her affairs… We used ‘Tell Us Once’ to notify and manage her government accounts and found ourselves asking why nothing existed for the banks, utilities, insurers, pension, and other private service providers”. Settld addresses this gap by creating a simple, secure online service for a person to notify all the companies that they list as needing to know that someone has died at the same time. Settld also follow up on delays on the person’s behalf and provide a single place for them to keep updated on notification progress.

Funeral Link

taking time off

Bereavement can impact all aspects of a person’s life. As a result, a person who is recently bereaved may need to take time off from work and/or education. The extent to which employers and educators accommodate the needs of a person who has recently been bereaved can have a significant impact on how well a person is able to cope after a bereavement.


Education plays a key role in the lives of all children and young people. From school to further education, it is incredibly important that the right mechanisms are in place to ensure that children and young people are supported.

For children and young people who were bereaved while at school, they told us about their experiences in the first few weeks after someone in their life had died. One young person told us: “I felt that many of my teachers didn’t realise the impact suffering a bereavement had. I think that to them I seemed okay in school but of course this wasn’t the case so soon after losing my Mum. I was shocked at the lack of support which was in place, and I had always assumed with something so significant there would be structures to support young people at the time they need it most. My pastoral care teacher did his best to support me, but I just don’t think there is enough training on how to properly handle such a complex set of needs”.


Another young person shared similar struggles of being bereaved while in school, he said:

“ ”

She died on the Tuesday night.

I went back to school the following Monday.

I had a real pressure to continue life as best I could. I had my Highers coming up and I wanted to be an engineer so that meant 4 A’s. I knew this wasn’t going to happen, but I acted like it was. I would have really benefitted from some general support from school, for example, saying they could see my grades dropping or asking if I was able to study properly.

Further to this, the Project also heard of people’s experiences of being bereaved while at college or university. One student was in their second year of university when their dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

They asked their department if they would be able to work from home so they could be with him while he was dying. However, their department said it was not possible and threatened to fail them for the year if they did not turn up to in-person lectures. They told us: “my uni wasn’t understanding while he was ill, but when COVID hit everything became more flexible, they gave me what I spent years asking for overnight”.

Additionally, another young person told us that she felt her university were more concerned with her academic success than her wellbeing after her dad died. She shared:

“I felt so unsupported, my uni just cared about my results. I was given no extensions and no extenuating circumstances for exams.

I had to go back straight away. It was so much pressure, I ended up dropping out.”


taking time off workplaces

The Project heard from people about their experiences of being bereaved while in full-time employment.

One person shared with us that when they were bereaved, they had to use their annual leave to take time off as their employer did not offer bereavement leave. They said: “It would have helped to have been given mandatory time off work instead of navigating days off at my employers’ discretion. I felt guilty taking the time off I desperately needed”.

Further to this, another young person told us that when they requested bereavement leave to process the death of her grandparent, HR questioned why they needed so much time off and only granted 3 days. When recounting this experience, she told us: “it felt like there was a perception from my work that ‘oh well everyone’s grandparents die, it’s not like your mum or dad so you don’t need that much time off…I shouldn’t have had to relive my trauma to justify my relationship to them and why this affects me so much”.

However, the Project also heard positive experiences of when an employer created a supportive environment for a grieving employee, one person told us: “I felt like the lucky one whose boss had let them take special leave for my dad’s death anniversary. My boss lost her dad when she was younger, so she understood first-hand how difficult it is for yourself and the family left behind”.

Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief created a Bereavement Friendly Workplaces toolkit for Scotland. It explores how workplaces can create an open and supportive environment for employees who are bereaved and how to facilitate their return to work.

The toolkit features a checklist of steps that all employers can take, and has guides on best practice for policies, procedures, office culture and communication. There are also case studies from people with lived experience containing both positive and negative experiences of workplace bereavement care. Additionally, the Bereavement Friendly Workplaces toolkit mentions the importance of employers committing to the Bereavement Charter for Children & Adults in Scotland. An employer in Scotland can demonstrate that their organisation is proactively working to support bereaved employees by displaying the Bereavement Charter Mark on their website or within their buildings.

Spotlight: Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief

financial needs

“I know there’s charities that offer counselling for free… but I needed real tangible help in the form of money and that’s not something they can help with”

Money is the last thing a person wants on their mind when they are bereaved of someone significant to them. However, for those bereaved of the main income earner in their household, they can find themselves having to immediately navigate a precarious financial position. Children and young people told the Project their experiences of being in this situation after a bereavement. One young person shared with us: “I had to work at my family business pretty much a week after my dad’s passing. I still haven’t stopped and feel like I’m drowning sometimes”.

The Project also heard from children and young people who had been pushed into poverty and/or made homeless because their mum, dad, or both, had died. This was the case for a young person who spoke to the Project about the aftermath of her mum dying. She told us: “I felt guilty for stressing about money, but I literally have no back up, if I don’t pay my bills, they will not get paid. I was having panic attacks and only eating smart price frozen vegetables and wearing my dressing gown, hat, and scarf around the house just to try to keep the costs down. More than once I thought I don’t actually have enough money to be alive”. Another young person told us that because she was left in debt after paying for her dad’s funeral, she ended up in rent arrears and was evicted from her flat. She said: “It was the home I lived in with my dad and my brother for years, where we made all of our memories. I didn’t have the money and we were kicked out; we were made homeless within weeks after he died. It was inhumane to do that, why weren’t we given support?”.


Financial struggles after a bereavement were also echoed to the Project by those who became the main or sole carer of a child or young person after someone had died. Widowed parents shared their struggles of raising their children with their income halved. Family members who had become kinship carers as a result of a bereavement told us that they struggled to adapt to the costs of raising a child.

The Project’s conversations with those navigating financial uncertainty and precarity as a result of a bereavement highlighted gaps in the current provision of support. People who had been bereaved and those who stepped into a main or sole carer role as a result of a bereavement shared similar experiences of finding it difficult to access financial support.

Many explored numerous avenues including charities, Citizens Advice services and their local council, yet failed to find viable solution to their financial troubles. A common experience the Project heard was that people were often excluded from receiving support due to the bureaucratic technicalities for eligibility. For instance, we heard from someone who was not entitled to a Guardian’s Allowance when they became their sister’s primary caregiver after their mum died because technically their dad is a surviving parent despite being absent from their lives. Further to this, we spoke to a young person who told us their difficulties of navigating the welfare system for financial support after being bereaved. She said: “I was left in debt from taking on all the bills after my mum died. It was a vicious cycle because I was in full time employment so didn’t qualify for any benefits, but even with my wage and overtime I still couldn’t afford to live”.

I had to work at my family business pretty much a week after my dad’s passing.
I still haven’t stopped and feel like I’m drowning sometimes.
“ ”


The life-long period after a person has died

Throughout the course of the Project, we heard many people with lived experience communicate a similar message: “grief is not something you can grow out of, instead it grows with you”. Therefore, we consider the ‘after’ period of a bereavement to last forever.

To understand how people who were bereaved during childhood learn to live with grief, we spoke to people at different stages of the ‘after’ period about their experiences. We heard from people who were still in their childhood (up to 26), those who were just beyond childhood (26-35) and those who were significantly beyond childhood (over 35). For example, one person we spoke to was four when they were bereaved but is now 17, and another was bereaved at 14 but is now 45. Although the duration people had spent living the ‘after’ period varied significantly, they all shared a similar story of how they struggled with growing up while navigating their grief.


Throughout the course of the Project, we heard many experiences of childhood bereavement and of the varying impacts grief had on people’s lives as they grew up – illustrating that there is no single way to grieve, nor is there a default experience of grief.

Cleo’s dad died when she was 4. People assume that because she was so young when it happened, it doesn’t affect her. What they don’t realise is that every time she sees a dad and a daughter together, whether that be playing on the swings or visiting her friend’s house, she grieves the loss of what she should’ve had. She might not remember every detail about her dad, or have lots of memories with him, but she has felt the pain of growing up without a dad every day and will continue to do so for the rest of her life.

These stories reflect real experiences we heard from the children and young people who engaged with the Project. These experiences helped us to describe grief in two ways: grief as grieving the loss of a relationship, i.e., when you feel the effects of going through life without that significant relationship; and grief as grieving the loss of a person, i.e., missing who they were, what they meant to you, and the things you did together.

These two forms of grief are not mutually exclusive. The people with lived experience we spoke to found it helpful to describe grief in these two ways, because it enabled them to explore the nuances of grief without invalidating their relationship to the person who had died. defining grief

Frankie is 20 and her granny has just died. People assume that she must be sad, but not as sad as if it was her mum who died. Others say, ‘oh well we’re at an age where everyone’s grandparents die’. What they don’t realise is that her granny was the one who raised her, and the one person she could always count on. Her granny might have been ‘old’, but that doesn’t make the pain of losing the most important person in your life any easier.


how grief changes you

“I felt like I was always going to be the sister of the boy who died. I ended up transferring to a different school where very few people knew me to get breathing space to grow up without it hanging over my head.”

People who have been bereaved spoke about the various way their lives changed following a bereavement. For many, it went beyond simply losing a person – it entirely altered their identity and outlook on life. For some of the people with lived experience that spoke to the Project, who they were before being bereaved is entirely different to who they are now. They described no longer being able to live the same life they did when that person was still alive.

They were no longer a sibling; they were an only child. They no longer had a mum. They no longer had a dad. They were not someone’s girlfriend; they were not someone’s boyfriend. They did not have the same best friend.

Processing this fact at any age can be devastating, but for those who were at such a key stage of their development it completely changed who they were and who they did become.

growing up faster

When children and young people have to adapt to a new way of living after a person who was responsible for looking after them dies, it can force them to ‘grow up’ faster. We heard stories from children and young people who had to step away from being a child to look after the people around them. One young person shared with us: “When my mum died, I suddenly had to step into a mothering role to my little brother, despite still being a child myself”. Another said: “everyone else kinda fell apart after my mum died, I had to step up and look after my dad, my brother and make sure the house was tidy, I learned to love school because it was my escape”.

Children and young people who took on these roles for their family after a bereavement, told the Project that they tended to hide this from the people around them outwith their household. This was often done out of fear that their family will get in trouble or broken up, meaning their struggles tended to go unnoticed by their wider family members, friends, neighbours, and teachers.

When asked what would help to alleviate pressure in this situation, one young person suggested: “respite from this responsibility would’ve helped, something like befriend a child to take me away from all the sadness and extra responsibility at home to give me a break to be a child again”. However, this young person went on to emphasise that this would have only helped on the condition that they were not removed from their family for more than a short break. They felt that although it was important that children and young people have outlets away from grief at home, they must also be given extra support to remain with their family whenever it is safe to do so. This is something teachers, charities, and social work should consider when being alerted to a child or young person who has recently been bereaved of someone in their household.


recognising symptoms of grief

Due to a general lack of awareness around how different emotions and behaviours develop as symptoms of grief, the Project found that it was common for people to feel like there is something wrong with them.

This led to people feeling isolated and developing unhealthy coping mechanisms. For instance, some young people shared their experiences of selfmedicating through alcohol and drugs to either numb themselves from the pain of grief or to feel something other than the numbness grief had caused.

During our Timeline of Support sessions one young person told us: “I wish I’d known that there was nothing that would compensate for that loss. I had to find ways of speaking about and remembering my mum because there was no forgetting her. Not acknowledging loss always led me to destructive behaviours”. Another young person shared that they had become accustomed to pushing the people around them away. They said: “I just remember feeling like no one understood what I was going through. My friends didn’t bring up my mum, so I assumed they didn’t care.

I became cutthroat, I thought well I’ve already lost the biggest person in my life so losing a few friends won’t affect me. Reflecting back on that time now, I think those friends were just as scared as me because they didn’t know what to say or how to support me, that isn’t their fault, they were young and hadn’t went through it themselves how would they know any better?”. These people, like many others who engaged with the Project, shared stories of acting in ways that were out of character and self-destructive, unaware of the influence grief was having on their personality.


grief and being a ‘man’

We spoke to self-identifying boys and men about their experiences of bereavement. Every single one of them spoke of how the pressure on boys to express their emotions in a certain way prevented or hindered their grief.

For some, these pressures were made explicitly clear by those around them. One boy told us: “after [my brother] died, I would break down and cry a lot in class. I couldn’t help it; it would just come over me. I’d be so embarrassed;

I didn’t want to show my face because I knew what people would say. It made me seem weak and it was easy for bullying, it was kinda like everyone thought ‘why are you showing your feelings you’re a boy, just suck it up and get on with it’”. For others, the expectations on how they should act were more subtle: “I had a part-time job, and I felt I had to turn up on form regardless of how I was feeling. The guys I worked with were going through [things too] and they all presented themselves as fine, they present themselves to you as if nothing’s wrong, and you’ve to help them with that performance”. Whether explicit or subtle, these pressures speak to a wider problem of social expectations on boys and men to be stoic.

The Project heard stories of how grief made many young boys become numb and detached to avoid their pain. For some of these boys, they recounted situations in which they masked their grief in the form of other behaviours. This was often done by ‘lashing out’ in anger because they did not know how to express their emotions. As a result, some of these boys faced repercussions for their actions, for example by being excluded from school or getting in trouble with the police. Instead of their behaviour being seen as a ‘cry for help’ or as a call for an intervention of support, many boys reported that they would immediately be punished without anyone questioning what made them act in the way that they did. During a conversation with an 11-year-old girl whose dad died, she shared her perception on her brother’s grief. She said:

“my brother and my mum were always arguing, and I think it’s because that’s the way my brother showed he was mad at my dad for dying and sad because he had died, and he really needed help. But he’s a boy and he couldn’t say that”.


By contrast, the Project also heard from self-identifying girls and women who described using similar coping strategies as a response to their grief, through retaliating in anger or self-medicating through drugs and alcohol.

For these girls, their behaviour was unlikely to be punished in the same way and instead they were referred for mental health support. Echoing this point, one parent described the differences in how her grieving son and daughter were treated by the school after the death of their dad: “my daughter’s school saw her behaviour/struggle as a mental health issue rather than related to grief, and my son was seen as a boy with behaviour problems not a boy who was grieving”.

One study showed that out of 33 young men that had been sentenced to a young offender institution, 91% of them had experienced at least one bereavement, with 75% having experienced a traumatic bereavement (through murder or suicide)7. Many of these young boys and men had experienced bereavement much earlier in childhood but felt they did not have the opportunity to talk about their grief. Additionally, they did not fully understand grief and felt that bereavement supports were either not available or not suitable for them. This study evidenced the need to do more to ensure boys are given the right support to grieve in healthy ways so that they can learn emotional outlets that do not manifest in anger or destructive behaviours.

7. The Ripples of Death: Exploring the Bereavement Experiences and Mental Health of Young Men in Custody - Vaswani - 2014 - The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice - Wiley Online Library

understanding complex grief

Grief is not a linear or consistent experience for anyone, but for some people their grief is layered with complexities that make it harder to process, accept, and heal from.

For instance, the Project heard from people who felt their grief was difficult to process because of a complicated relationship with the person who died, and others who described their grief as layered with secondary losses as a result of a bereavement such as moving to a new home or country. Some of these experiences are detailed below to show the far-ranging scope of the voices heard by the National Childhood Bereavement Project. While some of the experiences of complex grief are only representative of a minority of people grieving in Scotland, they are important in their own right to illustrate why there cannot be a one-size fits all approach to supporting someone through grief.

domestic abuse

A handful of the children and young people who engaged with the Project told us about the perpetrator of domestic abuse in their household dying and the difficulties they had in processing what this meant to them. They found it difficult to grieve the person who inflicted fear and harm at home for themselves, their brothers and sisters, and their parents. These feelings were made more complicated by the perception those outwith their household had of the perpetrator, who only saw the façade of them being kind and caring and not an abuser. This left children and young people with feelings of guilt for not grieving them and anger and frustration that no one else experienced what they did at home. The Project worked with Scottish Women’s Aid to ensure that issues of domestic abuse were communicated sensitively, and to share our learning on bereaved children and young people who have been victims of domestic abuse.

unaccompanied children and young people

The Project worked closely with the Scottish Guardianship Service to understand unaccompanied children and young people’s experiences of loss. For these children and young people, there are many layers to their grief. Those who have experienced bereavement also experience multiple secondary losses such as losing their home, country, culture, and community. In addition to this, they face language and cultural barriers when they arrive in Scotland alongside navigating a complex welfare and immigration system that is not trauma informed. This makes an already difficult time feel even more isolating, leaving no room for children and young people to process or heal from their grief. The work of the Scottish Guardianship Service helped the Project be mindful of the ways that our society must deal with grief and loss that factor in the multiple layers of trauma that can follow unaccompanied children and young people.


care experience and estrangement

We spoke to people with experience of care who shared with us that they felt their care experience added a confusing and complicated layer to their grief.

For instance, we heard from people who were, or had been, in care away from their birth families. They told us about the complicated feelings of loss they experienced when a member of their birth family died before they got the chance to form a relationship with them. One young person told us about how they felt when they found out their birth brother died. They said: “All I had in my head were ‘what ifs’ after he died. What if we had lots in common? What if we could’ve made up for all that lost time? What if we could’ve been a family? I’ll never get those answers, we were pulled apart at such a young age and never allowed to stay in touch. How do you grieve someone you never got the chance to know?”.

We heard similar experiences from birth parents whose children who were in care died. They did not know where to ‘put’ their grief because they did not get to form a relationship with them, they felt angry at the ‘care system’. For those who experienced their foster or adopted family members die, they told us that they felt like they had their ‘second chance’ at a family taken from them. Those who moved into kinship care, whether formally or informally, after a bereavement of their parents or carers, felt lost and confused. As a result of the bereavement, some of these children and young people had to move house, town or school and found the changes overwhelming. Kinship carers told us that they struggled to navigate their own grief while raising a child with minimal support.

We also heard from people who were estranged from their birth families, and how confusing this grief felt. One young person told us: “they were my last living relatives who weren’t estranged, grief makes you question whether you want to reconnect with them [birth parents] just for the parental figure in your life”.


where to turn?

“I remember I tried to Google something like ‘my mums just died, what do I do?’ and all that came up was generic stuff on grief that I didn’t understand. I needed someone to speak to, to help me know how to adapt to life without her and to teach me how to not let it overwhelm me”

A common perception the Project heard from bereaved children and young people was that there is nowhere to turn for support. On this point, one young person said during a group session:

“I tried to look for support but there was nothing out there I could find, it felt like I was the only 15-year-old in the world who had a dead dad”. However, despite there being no up-to-date or accurate figures on how many bereavement services there are currently operating in Scotland, the Project has identified at least over 100 services offering support in some shape or form. This evidences that change is needed to ensure that bereavement support is easily accessible to children and young people and feels responsive to their needs.

navigating the bereavement sector

The desk-based research phase of the Project evidenced the need for a new approach to coordinating the childhood bereavement sector through building necessary infrastructure. These calls were echoed throughout the engagement phase by those working to provide bereavement support who detailed the ways the sector could be ‘fragmented’, ‘siloed’, and ‘competitive’. Despite the best efforts of those within the sector to join-up their working and collaborate, the lack of an overall strategic approach to childhood bereavement created a barrier preventing the sector from operating to its fullest extent.


breaking down barriers to operating

The Project heard from those working in the sector of the issues they faced in sustaining their service, predominately due to struggling to find suitable funding to run their service.

Throughout our engagement, 17 bereavement charities and services self-declared that they were set up as a response to their own experiences. For some of these founders, their rationale was rooted in their own lived experience of being bereaved and not knowing where to turn. For others, they saw first-hand in their line of work the need for something different and set up their service to improve support for people who are bereaved. Despite these services and charities reporting success in plugging the gaps they were set up to address, they also shared struggles in finding ways to sustain themselves. This type of charity or service tended to be small, community-based, volunteer-led organisations.

As a result, those running them reported that they did not have the capacity, skillset, or resource to apply for funding and relied heavily on community fundraising. The Project heard the ways in which this was unsustainable, with some people using their savings or remortgaging their house to fund the work their charity was doing.


Further to this, the Project heard from smaller charities who targeted their service to the needs of their local and/or specific bereavement communities (such as those bereaved by suicide).

They described their services as working holistically with a smaller number of people for a longer period. Due to this, they found that they could be excluded from some funding streams as some grants tended to favour results in quantity over quality, looking for the ‘greatest value for money’. On this issue, one charity worker said: “the hardest part of the job for me is not dealing with complex cases, it’s having to turn people who desperately need help away because we simply do not have the funding for the staff to help them because we don’t fit the criteria of grants”.

The Project heard of the need to establish more dedicated funding avenues for the bereavement sector. This funding must factor in the nuances of small, communitybased charities and ensure they are not excluded based on the number of people they support.


joining the dots

During the Mapping Support roundtable, the attendees explored how equipped their local community was in responding to a child or young person’s grief.

Some of the attendees spoke of access to services being a ‘postcode lottery’, where certain geographical areas were disadvantaged in accessing support. For instance, people living in rural areas (particularly in the Highlands and Islands) reported that support was more likely to be sparse than those living in cities, especially within the central belt. On this point, one roundtable attendee said: “young people will be told there is support in their area, but it can actually be hours away. I supported someone living in Lochinvar that was referred to a ‘local’ service in Inverness”. As a solution to this, the attendees explored the ways in which local communities could be ‘upskilled’ with the necessary skills to recognise and respond to their own grief and give them confidence in how to support those around them who were grieving. Some of this conversation is captured below:

“Communities need to be equipped with focal points of knowledge, experience, and information… it shouldn’t be about external services parachuting in, it’s about training up local people and giving them the right resources so they have the skills to support their own people”

“Having the right support in schools isn’t the end goal, it’s only part of the solution. We must continue this within community-based groups like youth groups or sport groups to have a universal approach to upskilling local people to support themselves and others who are bereaved in their community”

This idea of bereavement services being a ‘postcode lottery’ was echoed across the Project’s conversations with both people working within the bereavement sector and those with lived experience.

In one discussion with a person who provided bereavement support in Scotland for a UK-wide charity they said: “there is a lack of understanding of just how intricate and nuanced Scotland is both geographically and culturally… I don’t support half as many people as my colleagues in say London do but I cover the ‘north’ of Scotland which effectively means I work from Angus to Achiltibuie”.


There are currently 12 local Bereavement Network Groups in Scotland: Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lothian, Fife, Forth Valley, Glasgow, Grampian, Highland, Inverclyde, Lanarkshire, Lothian and Tayside.

Although Child Bereavement UK have been involved with the development of the networks, each Network exists for the local community, and is not owned by one organisation but is collaborative in ethos and approach.

Often administrated by a local organisation, such as Highland Hospice, for the Highland Network, and supported by Child Bereavement UK the aims of the networks are to develop trust, encourage collaboration, break down silo working and create a culture of mutual support and shared learning.

During the Project’s attendance at the Bereavement Network Groups and throughout engagement with the bereavement sector, we have seen first-hand the positive impact being part of a Bereavement Network Group had on individuals and organisations across the sector. From attendance at Network Group meetings, people reported that they had better knowledge of both local and national services and were more confident in which external organisations they could signpost children and young people to if they could not offer the right support. The groups operate with an ‘open door’ policy whereby anyone in that community with a role in supporting a children and young people who are bereaved, or may come to be bereaved, are welcomed in. This builds the confidence of people to be more open about dying, death, and bereavement with the children and young people in their community. As a result, people shared how the groups helped them to go on to equip local children and young people with more knowledge on what support is available.

“It has been great to gain perspective, to feel part of a wider network and to hear more about the work of other similar organisations. It feels as though clients will be much better served when we are all working together and they can be signposted to the right place for them.” – Feedback submitted to Child Bereavement UK

The Bereavement Network Groups are a prime example of how to ‘join the dots’ of the bereavement sector, however they need support to continue to thrive.

By facilitating an open and honest space for attendees, they can share their struggles, and discuss where there are local gaps in provision and/or training. This allows for group members to work together to address these gaps, sharing learning, expertise, or resource to improve local support. However, as of now the coordination, planning, and administration behind each Network Group relies on an individual person who undertakes this alongside the tasks of their day job. Those behind the Network Groups envision establishing some of the groups as their own entity to make them more sustainable and give them more legitimacy. This would require investment and resource to achieve.


supporting children & young people to rebuild their lives

As mentioned previously, it is common for people with lived experience to feel that there is ‘nowhere to turn’ for support. During our Timeline of Support sessions, we worked with children and young people to unpack this shared perception and understand where change is needed.

how to access support?

The Project was set up with the sole task of reviewing services for those bereaved during their childhood and reporting recommendations for improvement to the Scottish Government. Yet, throughout its lifespan the Project became viewed as a ‘hub’ for signposting information and advice on childhood bereavement. At times, the Project was inundated with requests from parents, carers, social workers, teachers, and charity workers (both in and beyond the bereavement sector) for guidance on supporting a child or young person who had been bereaved. Examples of these requests include: “I’m supporting someone who has been bereaved, what do I do?” and “where can I refer this young person to for bereavement support?”.


For some children and young people, they found it tricky to know where to start with finding support after being bereaved.

The language and terminology associated with bereavement was reported to be a barrier in children and young people finding support. For instance, some people discussed not knowing that there was a term for someone they love dying in reference to the word ‘bereavement’ and they did not know what ‘grief’ was which made them unable to label their feelings as such. This made it hard to find information on where they could access specialist support, such as through bereavement charities or therapeutic services. In addition to this, some children and young people reported that if they did find an appropriate service through an online search, they were put off by the subsequent referral process. This was caused by the service requiring a parent/carer to refer on behalf of the young person or give their consent for the referral, which many children and young people did not want out of fear of upsetting or concerning those looking after them.

The children and young people who reported getting the right support at the right time, credited an adult in their lives for helping them get it. These adults used their own personal connections or knowledge of services to guide the children and young people in their lives. This was the experience of a boy who was bereaved of his brother when he was 4. He told the Project: “I was struggling in school, so my mum found me a charity to go to, it was really helpful because there wasn’t any pressure on talking about my brother we just chatted and played games… I didn’t know you could get support like that”.

Spotlight: AtaLoss

AtaLoss was set up by Yvonne Richmond Tulloch in 2016. When Yvonne was suddenly widowed in 2008, she realised how little she and others around her knew about bereavement, its difficulties and needs, and how hard it can be to find understanding support.

AtaLoss offers a national signposting website to put everything bereaved people in the UK need in one, trusted place, which signposts them easily to support (national, specialist and local services) reliable information, resources and emergency support.

In partnership with representatives from Cruse Scotland and Child Bereavement UK, the Project worked to update the signposting website AtaLoss with Scottish services.


the conditions of support

By design, through funding specifications, organisational policy or otherwise, services can operate with specific requirements on when people can access their support.

For example, a requirement on bereavements occuring between a certain age-range or a requirement on a set time period since or after the bereavement. We heard of how these requirements can contribute to children and young people who are bereaved feeling like their grief is not valid. For example, one young person was told they had to wait six months after their sister died to be eligible for support: “I wanted to speak to someone straight away about my feelings to process them”. Another young person in a similar situation received counselling up until their dad died, then had to wait before restarting to let their grief ‘settle’: “counselling has stopped as they’ve told me to take time before restarting new sessions. I need it more now”.

Children and young people discussed the implications of offers of support having conditions attached to it. For some, they reported being asked once if they wanted help after being bereaved and then never asked again. This was the experience of one young person, who shared:

“I was just told ‘we know your dad has died’ from my teachers when I came back to school, and they asked if I wanted to see the school counsellor, but I said no, and they never brought it up again.”

On this point, someone who was 16 when they were bereaved shared:

“I was pulled into a meeting with the guidance counsellor and was asked what I needed from the school. How am I supposed to know that?”.

Similarly, a young person who was bereaved when they were 14 told us: “It felt like the ball was totally in my court. How can you expect a 14-year-old to know what they ‘need’ or what to ask for from adults? They should have said we can offer you X, Y, Z –would this help? Or do you need A, B or C”.

These experiences illustrate the importance of support being a continuous offer throughout someone’s journey through grief, recognising there is no time limit to grieving. Additionally, it is not enough to ask children and young people what support what they need, there must be tangible examples of what can be offered for them to draw from. By equipping children and young people with all the information and empowering them to decide what they need and when, the barriers they often feel in accessing services can be broken down.

Further to this, we heard from people with lived experience who felt unable to ask for what they needed because they did not know what was on offer.

unresolved grief

“I eventually found the support I needed years later. However, I still struggle most days and I feel that getting support earlier would’ve have helped a little more.”

This section of the report has evidenced that the ‘after’ period of a bereavement can last forever. This means that support for people who are bereaved during their childhood may need to continue for years. In our conversations with people who were bereaved before the age of 26 but are beyond this age now, they shared similar reflections on how they struggled to rebuild their lives after a bereavement because they did not have the tools to do so. Despite some of them being bereaved many years ago, they described revisiting their grief as being reverting to their ‘child-like self’ at the time of the bereavement, still feeling as lost, scared and alone as they did then. When unpicking this during the Timeline of Support sessions, those with this shared experience believed that their inability to fully heal from their grief throughout their life was caused by not knowing how to process it when it happened. On this point, one person said:

“Whenever I’ve been bereaved as an adult, I’ve always felt better prepared for it because my dad died when I was wee. But whenever I think back to my dad dying I still feel like a lost child… I think the difference is that getting older you have the emotional tools to recognise what is happening and label it, but as a child you just don’t have that same capacity”.

Additionally, some of the children and young people the Project spoke to shared that they felt like they reached a ‘breaking point’ with their grief, where the toll on their mental health became overwhelming.

One of these young people told the Project: “it made depression and anxiety worse, I constantly worried when I wasn’t with family or friends, imagining the worst, that they would die too. I shut myself off from all my relationships because I didn’t want to feel the pain again”. The Project also heard from children and young people who reported that their grief going unresolved for too long drove them to suicidal thoughts and/or self-harming. One 16-year-old shared with us: “…she didn’t deserve to die. I used to wish I could trade places with her… On my worst days I just thought about joining her and ending it all”.

For these children and young people, their grief had become all-consuming and debilitating because of it going unresolved for so long. When these children and young people were asked what support they wished they had at a time when they needed it, they discussed multiple previous points in their life where interventions from those around them/services could have prevented them reaching the ‘breaking point’ they were currently at.


different forms of support

There were two forms of support that people with lived experience across our engagement sessions continuously highlighted as having the greatest impact – creativebased support and peer-to-peer support.

There were a range of creative-based supports discussed by children and young people. This included formal support delivered through art or play therapy and informal support facilitated by supporting adults that provided creative outlets, like colouring in or music. One person discussed the positive impact of play therapy on their grief, they said: “it was nice to have a distraction from home that wasn’t all serious or depressing. We made memory jars for my brother but also just chatted about normal stuff, it really helped me get through it”.

Additionally, a young person shared her experience of receiving informal creative-based support from her teacher at school: “Someone in school spent time with me every week and that was good. We just played games and drew, and stuff and she didn’t ask me loads of stuff so I could relax and not worry about that. I didn’t like anyone talking to me about my dad”.

Spotlight: Me and My Therapy

Me and My Therapy was set up by Callie Harrop and Sarah Smith, two professionals with significant experience of working with bereaved children and young people, to help parents, carers, children, and young people confront and deal with some difficult thoughts and emotions.

They created ‘Grief Toolkits’ to act as a conversation starter for children and young people and an outlet to share their thoughts, feelings and memories relating to their loved on and the narrative around their death. The activities and resources include focus on emotions – allowing young people to acknowledge, explore and share how they feel; narrative – telling their story of important moments in their lives or the bereavement; memories – having tangible activities to acknowledge memories of their loved one, find out who is important to them; coping - finding ways to live with grief. The activities are informed by grief theory, understanding the importance of sharing experiences and looking to the future.

Our Timeline of Support work explored different forms of support and the extent to which children and young people found them helpful.

People with lived experience of childhood bereavement told the Project stories of how they struggled to find other people their age who could understand what they were going through. investing in peer-to-peer support

In order to overcome this, some of these people spoke of how they took steps to create a space where they could connect with others who had shared experiences of bereavement and grief. The Project worked closely in partnership with both the founders of The Unheard Group and Let’s Talk About Loss. As groups led by people with lived experience for people with lived experience, they both are prime examples of people who are grieving finding a way to be for others what they needed for themselves. Through building a shared community, they have both individually helped to break down the taboo of being a young griever and stopped others from suffering alone. They are a testament to the power of peer-to-peer support, showing the importance of children and young people being able to navigate their life after a bereavement with others on a similar journey.


The Unheard Group is an Instagram page aimed at raising awareness of young people who have parents with cancer and young people who have experienced bereavement.

Gabrielle Livingstone created the page when she was 20, after struggling during lockdown with feeling like no one understood what it was like to be in her position; being young with a dad who has terminal cancer. She has used the page as a platform to discuss her own experiences and share other people’s stories of grief and bereavement to normalise the experience of being young and grieving.

There were hundreds of responses, however most of them predominantly focused on the importance of people knowing others who were also bereaved. Some of the responses are shared below.

• “Knowing other people who had been through the same”

• “Other people my age to speak to”

• “Emotional support from people with lived experience of losing someone to suicide”

• “Something like this page that has people’s personal stories to read to know you’re not the only one”

• “I needed to talk to someone who completely understood what I’d seen, experienced and continued to go through”

In collaboration with The Unheard Group, the Project created a questionnaire for their 2,000 Instagram followers. We asked: ‘what support do you wish was available at a time you lost someone?’

After Beth French’s mum died when she was 20, she felt alone and struggled to find others who knew exactly what loss felt like.

In response to this, she wanted to create a space where she could make friends who could relate to her experiences and talk openly and honestly about how she was feeling. As a result, she founded Let’s Talk About Loss for young people aged 18-35 who are bereaved. Let’s Talk About Loss is an entirely volunteer run organisation that hosts peer-led meetup groups across the UK to create a space for people to share stories and struggles without fear, judgement, or awkward silences. During a survey of attendees, Let’s Talk About Loss found that 87% of attendees said the meet up had been positive for their grief.

Every person who came, shared similar feedback of wishing more opportunities to connect with other bereaved people who were a similar age were available.

One attendee shared: “I wasn’t going to come because meeting new people makes me anxious, but I didn’t know if I’d get another chance to know other people like me”.

This speaks to why investment in peer-to-peer support is so essential to normalise the experience of growing up grieving. By making peer-led spaces more readily available for bereaved children and young people (through meet-up groups like Let’s Talk About Loss, social media pages to connect with others like The Unheard Group or peer groups in school like those ran by Seasons for Growth) more people can access a devoted safe space to talk about their grief with others who get what they are going through.

In January 2022, the Project hosted a meet-up event in partnership with Let’s Talk About Loss for 18-26 year olds who had been bereaved under the age of 26.

Throughout the course of the Project, we have met with over 350 people across Scotland with a range of experiences. Despite their differences in perspective, they all share the same overarching ambition – to build a country that holistically supports all children and young people who are, or who will come to be bereaved.

To achieve this ambition we must be proactive about preparing for the reality that bereavement will affect us all at some point in our lives.

The findings communicated throughout this report illustrate the importance of us as individuals ‘upskilling’ ourselves in how to process our own grief and support the people in our lives who are, or will come to be bereaved. However, this collective effort must be coincided with a commitment from the Scottish Government to view grief as a national priority. Without this commitment, we will continue to have a disjointed approach to bereavement that fails to holistically meet the needs of those who are grieving.

To recalibrate Scotland’s approach to bereavement, the National Childhood Bereavement Project concludes its work with recommendations for the Scottish Government to act upon in its obsolescence.

The seven recommendations have been co-created with people with lived experience of childhood bereavement, the supporting adults in their lives and those working to provide bereavement support. They offer the Scottish Government a route map to begin putting in place the right infrastructure for childhood bereavement, to enable all children and young people to:

prepare for a bereavement develop the necessary skills to cope with their grief access the right support when they need it. at all three stages of a bereavement – before, at the time, and after.

These recommendations are a starting point, not an end point for how to begin to build the necessary infrastructure for childhood bereavement. To bring these recommendations to life, there must be continuous work between the Scottish Government and various individuals and organisations, including those with lived experience, outwith the Project’s lifespan.


This report has evidenced necessity in Scotland becoming a nation that holistically supports all children and young people who are, or will come to be bereaved.

To achieve this ambition, the Scottish Government must embed their commitment to improving support for bereaved children and young people into wider national priorities.

For instance, a commitment to put in place the right infrastructure for childhood bereavement, to enable all children and young people to: prepare for a bereavement develop the necessary skills to cope with their grief access the right support when they need it.

must be considered as part of the National Performance Framework ‘Children and Young People’ National Outcome which is “dedicated to providing the essential conditions of love, respect and understanding through which our children can become the happy, fulfilled and successful adults they all have a right to be”8 .

As the Scottish Government approaches the implementation of the UNCRC (incorporation), they must consider how the fulfillment of children’s rights in relation to childhood bereavement will be protected and promoted.

The recommendations of this report will only be fully realised if they are joined up with ongoing commitments to children and young people, such as the delivery of the Promise, and broader Scottish Government aspirations like the Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) approach for children to grow up Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible, Included (SHANARRI).

The Project has evidenced the ways in which children’s rights are currently not upheld during the bereavement process, paticularly in regard to their right to be involved in decisions that affect their lives.
Embed commitments to improving support for bereaved children and young people into wider national priorities
8. Children and Young People | National Performance Framework 61

The National Childhood Bereavement Project has made progress in normalising the experience of being young and grieving in Scotland.

The legacy of this work must continue after the Project concludes, to ensure that children and young people who are bereaved in the future do not inherit the feelings of isolation and abnormality that were shared by people with lived experience who engaged in this process.

The Scottish Government should use carefully framed public awareness tactics, through campaigns, media promotion or otherwise, to publicise what grief looks and feels like for children and young people. This must be co-developed with people who have lived experience of childhood bereavement to ensure it is done in a manner that is safe and relatable, drawing inspiration from organisations who have had success in this area such as Let’s Talk About Loss.

This report has demonstrated the ways that the lack of coordination across the sector not only stands in the way of people delivering childhood bereavement support, but also prevents children and young people from being able to access the right support at the right time.

The Project, in partnership with those working within the sector, envision establishing a national secretariat for childhood bereavement as a way to address some of these barriers. As a starting point, there are four functions that a national secretariat must have – these are explained under the headings: information, signposting, admin support and feedback loop.

Establish a national secretariat for childhood bereavement Promote greater awareness of children and young people experiencing grief

function 1: information

The desk-based research period of the Project evidenced the lack of accurate and up-to-date information on bereavement services.

This was further demonstrated by people with lived experience expressing that they felt like there was nowhere to turn for support after being bereaved.

To help address these issues, the Project views a national secretariat as having the responsibility to collate information on what services are available to bereaved children and young people in Scotland (whether that be from UK-wide services operating in Scotland, nation-wide services across Scotland, or services specific to a local community) and the characteristics of these services (age-range, gender, type of bereavement, location, and referral process). This information must be held on a database that is continuously updated and made accessible to the public.

function 2: signposting

This report has detailed the barriers posed by the lack of available and accessible signposting information on bereavement services.

Although good work exists, particularly through the efforts of AtaLoss, there is a need for a dedicated Scottish-specific signposting website that meaningfully appreciates Scotland’s geography.

Those who helped in the development of this recommendation view creating a signposting website as a key responsibility of the national secretariat team, utilising their collation of accurate and up-to-date information on bereavement services.

Any signposting website that is created, must be co-developed with bereaved children and young people to ensure that it is child friendly and feels accessible to them.

Further to this, the Project has heard calls for a signposting website to be complemented by a helpline and/or online chat function to facilitate people finding the right support. The Project sees this as a vital way to ensure there is still a ‘hub’ to guide people to the best support after the Project concludes. The national secretariat should promote a helpline and/or online chat function alongside a signposting website so that those in need have the option to explain their situation to a person if the information online feels overwhelming.


However, the time needed to administrate and coordinate the groups creates additional pressure for individuals organising these groups as well as delivering services in their day-to-day work. We view the national secretariat as having a place in helping with the Group’s admin needs. The needs would differ for each group and must be decided in collaboration with individual group members. For instance, roles could include taking minutes, planning the agenda of meetings, facilitating multi-area projects with other Network Groups, and organising national gatherings of all Network Groups. Additionally, from listening to conversations and engaging in discussion, the national secretariat would be able to identify gaps in support or where there is training needs within a community.

function 4: feedback loop

From working closely with the Bereavement Network Groups and speaking to children and young people and those supporting them (through the helpline and online chat), the secretariat will have first-hand awareness of what issues persist in preventing child bereavement services from operating at their fullest potential.

They will also have a clear understanding of the barriers children and young people still face in accessing support. This provides an opportunity for a continuous feedback loop between those delivering and accessing services and decision-makers in local and national government. When designing the national secretariat, this function must be integral, so the mechanisms are in place for needs to be addressed as they arise.

Bereavement Network Groups are an invaluable asset to the childhood bereavement sector. function 3: admin support

Every school in Scotland must have a four-point approach to bereavement

As schools play a crucial role in the lives of children and young people, developing the right infrastructure for childhood bereavement begins with improving their approach to bereavement.

This recommendation has been co-developed with current and former school pupils with lived experience of childhood bereavement, parents and carers, teachers, Seasons for Growth coordinators and companions, Education Scotland, and charities providing bereavement support.

universal bereavement policy

Currently, bereavement policies and procedures are set at the discretion of each individual school. This means that some schools are well prepared to respond to the needs of a pupil experiencing bereavement while others are not, creating a disparity in support across the country.

A universal bereavement policy must take a ‘whole school’ approach to death, dying and bereavement, encompassing every member of school staff (from teachers to janitors) and every pupil (from nursery to 6th Year) to create a compassionate grief-aware school community.


There are a range of different aspects which a universal bereavement policy must cover. Those we have spoken to have outlined what this could look like below, however this is by no means an exhaustive list. (cont’d)

• Schools treat all pupils experiencing a bereavement, beyond just a bereavement of an immediate family member, as potentially significant.

• All school staff are aware of how grief presents itself in behaviours, attitudes, and emotions.

• Staff have discussed with the pupil a range of ways they can alert their teacher if they are struggling with grief and need time out from the class or time with a key adult.

• Extra support, time considerations, and accommodations for homework, deadlines and examinations are given to those who are experiencing grief.

• Appropriate and timely support is offered throughout a pupil’s school career, regardless of how much time has passed since the bereavement happened – particularly at times of transition.

• Schools are aware of local and national services for bereaved children and young people and can assist their pupils and their families with signposting.

• Schools record information on bereavement in a sensitive manner, and are able to communicate this with external services if extra support is required.

• Schools offer outlets for pupils experiencing grief. Psychological Services, particularly Educational Psychologists, have expertise to assist schools in this area – for example through facilitating lunch time peer-to-peer support sessions and creative-based therapies (e.g., art play).

9. Building



As it stands, there is no formal mention of death, dying, bereavement, or grief within Curriculum for Excellence. Any experiences relating to bereavement generally fall under the Health and Wellbeing curriculum area, specifically (HWB 2-03a)9:

‘I am learning skills and strategies which will support me in challenging times, particularly in relation to change and loss.’

The majority of the 350 people the Project has engaged with have echoed and strengthened the demand to see age-appropriate education on bereavement and grief embedded within the school’s curriculum. This reflects the calls by campaigners in numerous reports (such as Whole Schools Approach to Supporting Loss and Bereavement10 and A Road Less Lonely11) and research (Paul & Vaswani, 202012, Duncan, 202013 ) and a petition to Scottish Parliament14.

12. The prevalence of childhood bereavement Scotland its relationship with disadvantage: the signifi cance of health Vaswani, (sagepub. com)

13. Death and dying: A systematic review into approaches to support bereaved Duncan - 2020Review of

14. PE01820:

universal bereavement policy
bereavement and grief in the school curriculum
the Curriculum | Curriculum for Excellence | Policy drivers | Policy for Scottish education | Scottish education system | Education Scotland
Whole_School_Approach_to_LossAndBereavement).pdf (
A-Road-Less-Lonely-WEB.pdf (
a public
approach to death, dying and bereavement - Sally Paul, Nina
children -
Education - Wiley Online Library
Compulsory bereavement education in schools - Getting Involved: Scottish Parliament 66

bereavement and grief in the school curriculum (cont’d)

As part of the core curriculum, bereavement education must promote death as a natural part of the life cycle, breaking down the taboo of talking about dying. It must also promote awareness of what grief looks and feels like. This will equip children and young people with the necessary skills to recognise and respond to their own grief, but also give them confidence in how to support their grieving peers.

Any bereavement education must be relatable to our multicultural Scottish communities, factoring in different cultural and religious practices. It must also be designed to include those with additional support needs to ensure they are not excluded from developing the necessary skills and confidence to respond to their grief.

and speak about their family members as if they were still alive, which they found to be triggering and upsetting.

Additionally, the Project heard from children and young people who expressed a need for specific classes within schools to approach dying, death, and bereavement with greater sensitivity. For instance, some young people shared that during language classes they were taught how to talk about their family (e.g. how many siblings they have or what their parents do for work, etc.), but they were not taught how to say if their family members had died. As a result, these young people had to lie

The Project heard suggestions from children and young people of how Religious and Moral Education (RME) classes could be an opportunity to learn about end-of-life rituals in different religions and cultures. Some children and young people shared their experiences of when their friends – who were of different religious backgrounds – had been bereaved. They felt worried about not knowing how to follow and respect the end-of-life traditions of their friend’s religion, paticularly in regard to the funeral which in some cases discouraged them from attending.

Classes shouldn’t be generic they should tell you how to support your friend who might have one of these issues, if my friends and I all had the same class about how to support a [grieving] friend then I would know what I could ask of them. They would know more what to expect of me and I maybe wouldn’t have felt like I had to get on with things

Although great bereavement resources exist, they are not universally distributed across schools. As a result, these resources are often left to the teachers to sift through to decide what is useful, which can be time consuming and difficult to navigate on top of everything else they have on their plate. Likewise, if teachers are unaware of where to find bereavement resources, valuable resources can go to waste.

To find solutions to these issues, the Project has worked with school staff and those in external organisations who provide bereavement support within schools. They suggested that a ready-to-use bereavement resource bank should include the following:

• An online portal available for every school to access which includes training modules and self-help guides for teachers & pupils

• A core set of materials on pre and post bereavement and grief. highlighted on the National Improvement Hub and signposted to from the Personal and Social Education (PSE) Toolkit.

• Easily accessible, well-presented information sorted by type of bereavement, topic (e.g., funerals, grief, the dying process, etc.), age range, and gender.

• Easy-to-navigate signposting information specific to each area for any pupils who need support from external services.

• Training on the use of different resources in the classroom to build teacher confidence.

• Age appropriate stories, novels and poems that discuss dying, death, bereavement and grief to gently introduce children to the concept of death, and also help them to understand their emotions and normalise the experience.

Key decision-makers in education, school staff and organisations with experience in developing bereavement resources for schools must work together to develop this bereavement resource bank. Organisations with expertise in this area that the Project has worked with include, but are not limited to, Seasons for Growth15, Child Bereavement UK16, Cruse Scotland17, NHS Education for Scotland Support Around Death18, Richmond’s Hope19 and Hospices and Specialist Palliative Care services across Scotland such as St Columba’s Hospice Care20 and The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice21.

ready-to-use bereavement resource bank for every school to access 15. Materials - Seasons for Growth Scotland 16. Books and resources | Child Bereavement UK 17. Bereavement Support for Schools: Cruse Bereavement Care ( 18. Children who are Bereaved | Support Around Death ( 19. Resources | Richmonds Hope 20. St Columba’s Hospice Care, Palliative Care, Edinburgh ( 21. Palliative Care at Glasgow’s Hospice - PPWH ( 68

Most school staff that we have spoken to, who do not have any specific training on bereavement, do not feel confident in supporting someone who has been bereaved.

As a result, they do not feel able to proactively start conversations around death, dying, and bereavement with their pupils. Without a highlevel commitment to deliver comprehensive and universal bereavement training for all school staff in Scotland, the previous three recommendations outlined in this report cannot be fully implemented.

The Scottish Government, Education Scotland, Local Authority Directors of Education, and all Head Teachers must require school staff to undertake formal bereavement training.

For new teachers, this should be factored into Initial Teacher Education programmes and in the curriculum of university teaching programmes. For current teachers, this should be delivered in a similar manner to annual child protection training or through encouraging staff to undertake accredited programmes like Seasons for Growth.

Bereavement training for all new and current school staff will enable them to recognise the signs of grief, with a particular focus on how grief can present in a child or young person’s behaviour. Training will give staff the confidence to respond effectively and sensitively to a child or young person who is grieving by offering guidance on how to react, what to say, and how to best use available resources.

bereavement training for all school staff in every school

Develop clear and accessible advice on what to do when someone dies in Scotland

The ‘At The Time’ section of this report illustrated the ways in which children and young people feel overwhelmed and out of their depth when they are bereaved.

This evidenced that as a nation, we are failing to meet the practical needs of people who are bereaved. The Project investigated how this should change. By working with children, young people and bereavement charities, we developed a twostep guide on what Scottish Government can implement to improve awareness on what to do when someone dies.

Step 1: Overhaul and redevelop ‘what to do after a death in Scotland’ in partnership with children and young people

What to do after a death in Scotland - practical advice for times of bereavement is a booklet published by the Scottish Government that offers advice and guidance for people who find themselves responsible for making the arrangements after the death of a relative or friend.

The booklet is currently in its 11th Edition and was last revised in March 2017. As this is the official guidance signposted to by Scottish Government, the Project felt it was appropriate to review its effectiveness for children and young people.

To do this, we gathered a small group of young people who had all been bereaved and took on additional ‘death admin’ responsibilities as a result. We asked them whether they had used the booklet before and, if so, did they find it helpful?

All the young people who participated told us that they had never heard of the booklet before. Some had even spent hours searching online for resources to help when making arrangements after someone had died and still did not find this document. These young people felt that, while this resource would have been helpful as a starting point at a time when they were bereaved, it would have overwhelmed them with information. The consensus was that the booklet was too long, too complicated and used terminology that they did not understand. They felt that it read as unemotional and cold and lacked up-to-date resources, especially as its previous revision was prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Step 1 (cont’d): Overhaul and redevelop ‘what to do after a death in Scotland’ in partnership with children & young people

We also spoke to charities working to support people at the time of a bereavement. One charity shared that they tended to avoid using the booklet with those they support as it is “very lengthy and a lot to take in when someone is faced with a death and is struggling to take information in”. They also added that the information has not been updated to reflect changes in social security.

This shows that, in its current form, the ‘What to do after death in Scotland’ booklet it is not fit for purpose. Therefore, the Project recommends that a new, easily accessible resource must be created. This process must be co-designed by people with lived experience of bereavement and meaningfully involve children and young people to ensure they are not excluded from accessing the information. The Scottish Government should also reconsider whether a booklet is the correct format for this information, and work towards developing other means of communication such as online toolkits with accurate, working links to services and support.

To prevent such a potentially life changing resource being underutilised, there must also be better awareness of its existence. This requires Scottish Government to work with all those dealing with the end-of-life process to promote it. This includes but is not limited to, hospitals, funeral directors, and councils – to ensure they have the necessary information to automatically signpost those they are supporting.

Step 2: Support people with ‘death admin’

Alongside having a more up-to-date and user-friendly guide on what to do when someone dies, there is a need to improve the easiness of recently bereaved people dealing with ‘death-admin’.

Within the competences of the Scottish Government, there should be work undertaken to strengthen the awareness of the ‘Tell Us Once’ service across the public. Additionally, the Scottish Government should work with Scottish businesses and companies to determine whether a partnership with Settld, or a similar service, would be beneficial.

Outwith the lifespan of the Project, there should be work undertaken to ensure the Scottish Government has the procedures in place to provide extra support, if needed, to young people and young adults who find themselves in the situation of taking on Power of Attorney or becoming an Executor of a Will.


Work to create compassionate, grief-aware Scottish workplaces and places of learning

As evidenced throughout the ‘At The Time’ section, it is imperative that workplaces and places of learning accommodate the needs of their grieving staff and students, respectively.

Therefore, the Project sees the value in the Scottish Government exploring how it can support promotion of the Workplace Charter Mark and Bereavement Friendly Workplaces Toolkit in collaboration with the Bereavement Charter Group and Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief. In addition to this, there must be work done to explore how guidance, such as that set out in the Bereavement Friendly Workplaces Toolkit, can be adapted to places of learning to ensure that schools, colleges and universities are compassionate environments for their grieving students.

“I would have been happy for support to be means tested, a one-off grant, literally anything to alleviate some pressure.”

The Project has detailed the financial struggles many people who have been bereaved of a primary income earner face. Unfortunately, these experiences are only set to get worse in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis. Therefore, we recommend that a grant must be available to those who find themselves in this precarious financial situation.

Although the Project only had a remit to explore the needs of those under the age of 26 who are bereaved, people outwith this age category also got in touch to share their experiences. One of these people, who was 28 and had just been bereaved of her dad, shared: “I know I’m past the age range you’re looking at, but I’ve been treated as though I’m at an age where I should be able to be without my dad, so I don’t deserve support… I don’t think that’s fair, it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me and I can’t access any support, I’ve had to take on a mortgage by myself on minimum wage… how can I survive?”.

Additionally, as detailed throughout the report, the Project heard from widowed parents and people who became kinship carers as a result of a bereavement who faced similar financial precarity and found themselves excluded from support.

Therefore, to conclude that a grant available to those who are recently bereaved should only be accessible to those under the age of 26 would be unfair to these people’s experiences. As such, the Project recommends that these caveats must be considered in the development of a grant to support those bereaved of a primary income earner. The Scottish Government must co-develop this grant in partnership with those who have lived experience of childhood bereavement while also working with the UK Government and Social Security Scotland to ensure being a recipient of such a one-off grant does not affect entitlement to wider social security benefits.

Establish a bereavement grant for those in a precarious financial position as a result of a primary income earner dying

roundtable attendees

Anna Ludwig Roundtable Attendee

Duncan Shaw Roundtable Attendee

Eilidh Mccreadie Roundtable Attendee

Fiona Arnott-Barron Roundtable Attendee

Flora Watson Roundtable Attendee

Janet Marshall Roundtable Attendee

Janette McGarvey Roundtable Attendee

Jen Somerville Roundtable Attendee

Katriona Kelly Roundtable Attendee

Kelley Scoular Roundtable Attendee

Lynsay Allan Roundtable Attendee

Mark Hazelwood Roundtable Attendee

Moira Sugden Roundtable Attendee

Rhona Bain Roundtable Attendee

Sally Paul Roundtable Attendee

Veronica Currie Roundtable Attendee

project allies

Beth French Project Ally

Callie Harrop Project Ally

Cara Hope Project Ally

Chantelle Murphy Project Ally

Emma Murphy Project Ally

Gabrielle Livingstone Project Ally

Gillian Irving Project Ally

Heather Coady Project Ally

Jenny Ferguson Project Ally

Jimmy Paul Project Ally

Laura Wood Project Ally Lewis Macleod Project Ally Linda Sterry Project Ally

Marissa Roxburgh Project Ally

Mariya Javed Project Ally

Mathilde Scott Project Ally

Sam Macrae Project Ally

Sameena Javed Project Ally Sarah Smith Project Ally Sue McKellar Project Ally

Catriona Macpherson

Roundtable Collaborator

David Duncan Roundtable Collaborator

Callum Flannigan

Timeline of Support Facilitator

Donna Hastings Roundtable Collaborator

Nicola Reed Roundtable Collaborator

Rebecca Patterson Roundtable Collaborator

Sue Brookes Roundtable Collaborator roundtable collaborators

Karen Sneddon Timeline of Support Facilitator

Louise Murphy Timeline of Support Facilitator

Rosemary Bowman Timeline of Support Facilitator

Ruth Marshall Timeline of Support Facilitator timeline of support facilitators

a thank you to some of the people who contributed their time to the Project
includem, Unit 6000, Academy Office Park, Gower Street, Glasgow, G51 1PR A charity registered in Scotland, number SCO30233 | Company registration number: 207985

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