Being alongside anyone experiencing a loss can be emotionally draining, but supporting a bereaved child, particularly so.  The need for support yourself is not a sign of an inability to cope or of professional incompetence, but a recognition that everyone needs help to carry out this demanding role.

Share feelings

Use friends and colleagues to talk about how you are feeling; create opportunities for members of staff to get together.  Just knowing that others are affected can help you to feel less alone and better-able to cope.

Anticipate that you may experience an emotional reaction

It is perfectly normal and OK to be emotionally affected.  However, recognise that in order to help others, you need to feel reasonably strong yourself.  You may become aware of previous losses in your own life.  If it all feels too close to home, do not be afraid to say so.

Professional boundaries

Getting over-involved is not helpful to either yourself or to the bereaved child or adult.  You cannot carry their grief for them, but you can share their journey by being there for them and being aware.

Have information on resources and organisations

Share contact details of bereavement organisations as this will enable you to do something practical to support a grieving family.

Help others

If you become aware that a colleague is stressed or affected by a death in your community, try to find time to ask them how they are.

Spoil yourself

Make time to do something just for you or give yourself a treat.  Physical exercise can be a great stress buster.

You do not need to be an expert to provide effective help

Many people feel inadequate and out of their depth when faced with adults or children experiencing deep sadness or trauma.  It is more about being there for them, and building a relationship with them, than being a bereavement professional.  Always be realistic with the amount of support you can give.

Try to recognise when you are running on empty

It takes energy and strength to ask for help when we most need it.  Some of the signs to look for include feeling physically exhausted and overworked, an inability to delegate and generally not feeling on top of things.