5 May 2021

Today, the UK Trauma Council (UKTC) and three child bereavement charities appeal for more awareness of traumatic bereavement, particularly in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

There have been more than 120,000 deaths in the UK due to the pandemic, with a large number of children and young people being affected through the death of a family member or someone else important in their life. The pandemic has created situations in which a death comes unexpectedly, without the chance to say goodbye, or where family members feel guilt that they may have brought the virus into the home. These factors may increase the likelihood of a traumatic bereavement.

In a traumatic bereavement, the trauma gets in the way of the typical process of grieving. It blocks the child or young person’s ability to ‘make sense’ of the death and adjust to their loss. As a result, how the child or young person experiences or understands the death – the meaning they make of it – results in it being experienced as traumatic. This can happen to children and young people in any circumstance and at any age.

David Trickey, Co-Director of the UKTC, explains:

Traumatically bereaved children and young people experience significant distress and difficulties, over and above a more typical grief. Traumatic bereavement may be easily missed or misunderstood, meaning that children’s difficulties are not recognised by even the most supportive adults including parents, teachers and bereavement practitioners. It is vital that these children are identified and given the appropriate help and support.

In collaboration with leading bereavement charities, Child Bereavement UK, Winston’s Wish and the Childhood Bereavement Network, the UKTC is supporting efforts to provide specialist and timely help for children affected by traumatic bereavement. The UKTC is hosted and supported by the Anna Freud Centre, and funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

This new initiative has been prompted by the pandemic, which has had a profound impact on children and young people’s mental health. In England, the proportion of children and young people with a probable mental health disorder rose to one in six in July 2020, from one in nine in 2017.(1) To support those working with bereaved children and young people, a new portfolio of free, evidence-based resources for school staff, bereavement services and NHS mental health services are launched today. The development of the portfolio has been funded by the Government’s Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund.

These new resources will give schools and clinical staff the knowledge to recognise traumatic bereavement, advice on how to put appropriate support in place, and guidance on how to refer on to more specialist services. David Trickey explains:

As our new resources show, young people often grieve in puddles, dipping in and out of their grief. But if the grief becomes traumatic, it is more like a deep well, and much harder for the young person to step out of. These resources should help identify traumatic bereavement, provide effective support, and allow trusted adults to hold the hope for the child or young person.

As awareness increases of the impact of the pandemic, the UKTC welcomes the efforts to address children and young people’s experiences of trauma within the UK Government's mental health recovery plans.(2) Building on these measures, the UKTC encourages the UK Government, and those of the four nations, to support schools, NHS mental health services and bereavement services to use evidence-based approaches to address the impacts of traumatic bereavement during the pandemic on children and young people’s mental health and lives.

Professor Eamon McCrory, Co-Director of the UKTC, says:

Working together, we can begin to address the impact of the current pandemic on the wellbeing of children and young people. The easing of lockdown and return of schools creates more of a sense of normality for children, but some will have been intensely affected by what they have been through. An immediate priority is to ensure parents, teachers and professionals have the support and guidance they need to help those children who have experienced a traumatic bereavement.

The UK Trauma Council brings together 22 experts in the field of childhood trauma, drawn from across all four nations of the UK. The members represent a range of disciplines and sectors, including research, clinical practice, education, policy, and experts by experience.


1. NHS Digital Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2020

2. Announced on 27 March 2021

A still from the UKTC's new 4-minute animated resource for schools.

For interviews and further information please contact:
Michelle Cunliffe  [email protected]  07776 760 943

Notes to editors

A portfolio of new Traumatic Bereavement resources available on the UK Trauma Council website include:

  1. Resources for schools: featuring a comprehensive written guide with supporting tools including videos, plus a 4-minute animation.
  2. Clinical resources: featuring an extensive practice guide and supporting videos to support those working therapeutically with children and young people.


The UK Trauma Council is chaired by Co-Directors David Trickey and Professor Eamon McCrory, both experts in childhood trauma and its lifelong impact:

David Trickey is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist. Since 2000, David has specialised in working on trauma and traumatic bereavement. He continues to focus on direct clinical work, as well as training and supervision of other practitioners working with traumatised children, young people and their families. He routinely acts as an expert witness in civil and criminal cases, and in 2018 was part of the NICE committee to revise guidelines on PTSD.

Eamon McCrory is Professor of Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology and Co-Director of the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit at UCL. He is also Director of the Division of Education and Training at the Anna Freud Centre. Eamon’s research focuses on early adversity and behavioural problems in childhood. Using brain imaging and psychological approaches, he investigates the mechanisms associated with developmental adversity and resilience with a focus on the impact of maltreatment on children’s future mental health.

About The UK Trauma Council - www.uktraumacouncil.org The UK Trauma Council (UKTC) is an independent, multidisciplinary, evidence-based expert group hosted and supported by the Anna Freud Centre. The UKTC speaks with authority and experience on the impact of traumatic events on children and young people, and how best to help them. It brings together leading experts in the field of childhood trauma from across the four nations, and seeks to empower professionals and local communities in supporting children and young people exposed to different forms of traumatic event – including single incidents, as well as abuse and neglect. It seeks to ensure children and young people are appropriately and effectively supported, and produces resources to assist those working directly with those who have experienced trauma. The vision of the UKTC is a world which nurtures and protects children and young people following trauma, and builds understanding of how to reduce the impact of traumatic events.

About the Anna Freud Centre - www.annafreud.org The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families is a children’s mental health charity with over 60 years’ experience. We have developed and delivered pioneering mental health care since 1952. Our aim is to transform current mental health provision in the UK by improving the quality, accessibility and effectiveness of treatment. We believe that every child and their family should be at the heart of the care they receive, working in partnership with professionals. Our vision is a world where children and families are supported effectively to build on their strengths and to achieve their goals in life.

About The National Lottery Community Fund - www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk The National Lottery Community Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK, proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, the Fund has made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.The National Lottery Community Fund is passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything the Fund does is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, funding is open to everyone. The National Lottery Community Fund is privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.