In our death-averse society, children are often left to grieve alone


Richard Beard’s brother drowned at the age of nine while the family was holidaying on the Cornwall coast. The trauma, grief and loss associated with that day has impacted Richard's life ever since, and here he explains why.

In nearly 40 years, either alone or with my family, the anniversary of my younger brother's death has never been acknowledged or commemorated. Which is an epic level of denial. As it is, the older I get the harder it is to pretend that denial works as a strategy for sustaining inner peace. The memories I’ve wanted to suppress refuse to stay down. (Read the full article in The Daily Mail here)

When serious illness or bereavement occurs within a family, everyone is affected. For children and young adults, the impact can be intense, emotionally traumatic and long-lasting.  Like Richard, children are often left to grieve alone because parents and extended family members are struggling to cope.  Feelings of isolation and loneliness can create social, behavioural and academic problems that can last into adulthood.

Based on international statistics (Ref: US-based 'The Shared Grief Project'), an estimated 1 in 20 children will experience a bereavement by the age of 16. In New Zealand, approximately 25% of our population is under 18 (Statistics NZ Census 2013). That’s about 1.25 million children. Based on the estimate above, around  6,800 will be affected by the death of a loved one by the age of 18.   

Studies have shown that the intervention of evidence-based resources and information at this difficult time, such as those provided by Kenzie's Gift, can give children and young people the tools and coping mechanisms they need to deal with the fear, anxiety, grief and loss experienced when they, their siblings, or a parent are diagnosed with serious illness, or there is a family bereavement.  (The Effectiveness of Bereavement Interventions With Children: Currier, Holland, Neimeyer Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology 2007, Vol. 36, No. 2, 253–259).

Providing this timely support can go a long way towards lessening the life-long emotional impact and unresolved anguish felt by people like Richard – and herein lies the mission of Kenzie's Gift: to provide age-appropriate psychosocial support for children experiencing bereavement, or a diagnosis of serious illness, within the family.  

Kenzie's Gift Ambassador, well known psychologist and author Nigel Latta, says there is a strong evidence base behind the services the charity provides. "It is fundamentally important that families struggling with these kids of issues receive support that is evidence-based rather than simply 'well intended'. It is a testament to the quality of that support that demand for their services continues to increase."

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