Grieving families ‘missing out on critical support’

Thousands of families are going without the support they need after losing a child or parent, according to the psychotherapist who helped princes William and Harry after the death of their mother, Princess Diana.

Julia Samuel, founder patron of Child Bereavement UK, said the princes’ moving and candid testimony about the death of Diana 20 years ago had “shifted the dial”, adding that the charity had seen an increase in calls to its helpline as a result.

The princes were helping to break down taboos about death and mental illness with their patronage of Child Bereavement UK and Heads Together, Samuel said, adding that calls from young men about their mental health had also increased. “Their courage in being so open about the death of their mum has really helped in raising awareness and breaking the taboo.”

Prince William has lent his voice to a new campaign launched by Child Bereavement UK, which asks children who have lost a parent, or parents who have lost children, what they would say to their loved one if they had another minute with them.

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Child Bereavement UK’s new campaign, One More Minute.

A YouGov poll for the charity found that one in five British adults who were grieving for a close family member wished they had more support. Around 110 children lose a parent every day, while more than 10,000 children and young people aged under 25 die each year.

After this year’s terrorist attacks in London and Manchester and the Grenfell Tower fire, the need for an open debate about death and how to help people grieve was more critical than ever, Samuel said. Child Bereavement UK has opened a support centre at the Phoenix Brewery in west London to help people who lost loved ones in the Grenfell disaster.

With around one in nine schoolchildren dealing with a bereavement, Samuel urged schools to get in touch with the charity for more support in how to help them.

“Often people think they need to protect their children from death, but you can’t protect a child from the death of a parent,” she said. “What is very important for children is that they are told the truth and that they can participate, that they are given the same information and truth as the adults around them. It is the things that they are not told that can haunt them and do them harm for the rest of their lives.”

The chief executive of Child Bereavement UK, Ann Chalmers, said the charity needed to find vital funding to “help us plug the gaps in bereavement support” across the UK.

“Our vision is for all families to have access to the support they need when a child grieves and when a child dies, and our One More Minute campaign gives us the opportunity to spread the word so that families are aware that bereavement support is available through organisations like ours,” she said.

The campaign is supported by the cook Mary Berry, the actor Jason Watkins and the former footballer Rio Ferdinand, whose wife, Rebecca, died in 2015. In an hour-long BBC documentary, Being Mum and Dad, broadcast this year, Ferdinand talked about his struggle to cope with her loss and caring for their grieving children.

“The environment I’m from doesn’t do reaching out and emotional talking,” he said in a statement. “Once I had broken that down and realised that I needed that help to help my children, I saw the benefit straight away.”

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