Response to the loss of HM Queen Elizabeth II

Supporting grief and loss with young children with stormbreak.

At this time of national mourning and sadness, it can be a challenging time for young children to make sense of feelings of loss, grief, sadness and change.

Those who live with, work with and care for children may find themselves with difficult questions to answer or conversations to have as children learn how to recognise, respond and regulate their emotions in response to things they see and hear regarding the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

At stormbreak we understand the importance of listening to children carefully, with intent to understand and validate their feelings, and we aim to reduce the stigma about mental health by mainstreaming conversations through movement. During this time of great sadness and change, children may experience a range of emotions as they experience, directly or indirectly, the sadness, grief and change associated with death.

It is worth remembering that national mourning is quite different to personal grief. When we mourn, we are expressing sorrow at someone’s death. Therefore, it is appropriate to mourn, even when the grief is not personal. However, grief is the emotional experience of personal loss; which inevitably has an outward expression in mourning. How a child grieves, or mourns, is somewhat dependent on their age, stage of development and level of understanding. The period of national mourning presents a unique opportunity for emotional coaching and helpful conversations around painful feelings.

It is OK for children to experience and express feelings across the entire spectrum in response to national mourning. How we respond to their emotions is vitally important. Each moment is an opportunity to teach them that every type of feeling is OK and that our feelings can change.

You may see signs of frustration and anger, because an event that is important to them has been cancelled. It’s OK for them to express these feelings, it’s not disrespectful. They may feel sad and confused; that’s OK, the nation is mourning and it may likely affect how they are feeling. They may be looking forward to an extra day off school, and maybe then feel guilty because they know people are mourning the loss of Her Majesty. It’s OK for them to experience these feelings too. Remember that the child is not experiencing a personal loss, therefore mourning may be confusing for them.

As you can see there is no right or wrong way to feel during a period of national mourning. As a nation we are expressing sorrow at the loss of our Queen. The grief may not be personal, but it may touch on experiences of personal loss too. How should you respond?

Listen to the child. Talk to them. It is normal to feel sad when remembering someone, even if they died many years ago. Allow them to pour out their loss. Reassure them that it is OK to feel their loss once more, it is common for events like these to cause deep feelings to rise up. If children have experienced early loss the grief of their personal loss may need to be expressed again; as they pass through developmental stages and their understanding changes. Answer any questions as honestly as you can, in a way that the child can understand. It is OK to say you don’t know the answer to a question, if you don’t; but offer to support them to find it out.

Remember, it is ok to experience a range of emotions and children can often “puddle jump” when managing powerful emotions. One minute they may be laughing and smiling, the next they may be overcome with sadness. The best way to respond is to accept how they are feeling and try to avoid minimising or denying their feelings. This validates their emotions and teaches them that their feelings are ok.

However your child is responding to the period of national mourning is OK. Listening and helping our children to express and understand their feelings is the best way to support them.

Try these stormbreaks to help support children through times of uncertainty or sadness.