In a week where loss and grief have been at the forefront, today I am proud to announce that we have submitted the National Childhood Bereavement Project’s final report to the Scottish Government.
I’d like to take this moment to thank not only my own team here at includem for all their efforts but also to the professionals in the sector for their valuable input and participation in our roundtable events. I would also like to give particular thanks to those with lived experience of childhood bereavement who participated in this project. Their input has brought valuable insight which has provided a rich context and understanding to this report and will allow us to support people experiencing childhood bereavement with more understanding and courage.
I urge everyone to read our report and to think about the role that they can play in helping the whole of our society, not just 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 our 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.
Our 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 highlights 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.