"With the right information and education, young people and children can be empowered."

John Adams, President of the National Association of Funeral Directors, shares why he’s launched a petition for compulsory bereavement education in schools.

The UK Commission on Bereavement’s report ‘Bereavement is everyone’s business’ called for all education establishments to be required to have a bereavement policy, including staff training, and a process for supporting bereaved children and their families.

National Association of Funeral Directors President, John Adams, has launched a Parliamentary petition for all school age children to be taught about death, dying and bereavement in schools as part of compulsory PHSE lessons.

John shares what inspired his campaign.

“I lost my mother when I was 12, an experience which has given me a heightened level of compassion. For a child, their immediate family is their life; I feel passionately that we need to involve children in funerals and the grieving process. We may want to protect children from sadness and loss but we cannot avoid it - it’s part of living.

“When I arrange funerals I try to incorporate younger family members by arrangement and find out what they need. That might be no involvement but it’s important they have a choice. With the right information and education, young people and children can be empowered, resulting in a more positive way forward after the funeral.

“I believe schools should be required to provide age-appropriate education to help children understand death as a part of life, and they must be properly resourced to support bereaved children. It’s important we speak to children about death and dying before they experience a loss so they understand their choices.

“The provision of grief education can engender compassion and empathy in the classroom and help teachers communicate with pupils. Although schools provide a key support mechanism for bereaved children, pupils are unlikely to have spent any time learning about death and grief in the safe space of the classroom, and many schools do not have procedures in place when a student suffers a loss. 

“We ensure children are taught about how life begins through the PHSE elements of the curriculum, and similarly we shouldn’t shy away from equipping young people with the necessary skills and information to comprehend life ending, better preparing them for the emotions and feelings that accompany a death. This can only result in a more positive way of living for all of society. 

"The response to the petition has been overwhelming, highlighting the high level of grief carried by society. Many people have contacted me about the initiative and are now sharing their experiences of when they suffered a loss at a young age. Despite the sadness that surrounds death, the experience we go through CAN be better.”

John's petition to add content on death, dying and bereavement to the national curriculum is now closed.  Thank you to everyone who signed the petition which achieved 11,322 signatures.   

John is the Funeral Industry Advisor for Child Bereavement UK.

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