Dealing with childhood bereavement is vital, says Minister

Minister for Children launches a guide to help adults support bereaved children

Dealing with childhood bereavement is vital, but it hasn't been given the sort of attention it deserves, Minister for Children James Reilly has said.

Dr Reilly said 28 per cent of children had lost a grandparent by the age of nine, while over 2 per cent had lost a parent. There was no magic formula to make it easier but “children need adults to help them understand the mixture of emotions that accompanies the passing of a loved one”.

Failing to deal with bereavement could have an impact on children’s education and mental health. “Counselling and support services are key to helping these children cope with their grief,” Dr Reilly said.

Guide unveiled

He was speaking as he unveiled a new guide to help adults support a child who has been bereaved.


The Childhood Bereavement Care Pyramid is aimed at parents, teachers, family members and health professionals and was developed by the Irish Children's Bereavement Network. It will be introduced to doctors' surgeries, health services and community settings in the coming months.

Dr Reilly launched the guide at the first Irish conference on childhood bereavement in Dublin Castle.

“I truly believe that it will be of invaluable help to many, as it sets out the child’s needs and the appropriate levels of support and services required to address those needs,” he said.

The conference was organised by the Irish Children’s Bereavement Network and explored issues such as the role social networking sites play in young people’s grief.

Facebook impact

UK-based counselling psychologist

Elaine Kasket

told delegates that social networking sites such as Facebook were having a significant impact on modern mourning, but bereavement counsellors often lacked awareness of this phenomenon. “There can be a lot of fear and concern about what it means when people are mourning and memorialising friends and loved ones on Facebook,” she said.

“But I want to really highlight the fact that there is no research evidence to support that fear at all. In fact, it’s the contrary. All the research and clinical evidence that’s coming out is that social networking sites like Facebook can be tremendously helpful and facilitative in the grieving process.”

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times