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A study by the University of Liverpool into the impact of early parental death has found that it is essential that bereavement support should consist of more than the counselling that is frequently available and offered to bereaved children.
The three year study found that that those working with bereaved families need to ensure that support which increases stability, continuity and cohesion is introduced at every level of the family system. This should include essential practical support with household tasks such as housework, cooking, shopping and taking the children to school as well as offering opportunities for children to share memories within their families.
Professor Mari Lloyd-Williams, from University’s Department of Health Services Research, said: “Moving home and separation from family and friends makes adjustment to parental death significantly more difficult and increases stress in bereaved children. Long periods of disruption or living arrangements that do not meet the needs of the bereaved child means they are more likely to experience emotional difficulties and feelings of insecurity and loneliness in adult life.”
Dr Jackie Ellis, lead researcher based in the University’s Academic Palliative and Supportive Care Studies Group (APSCSG), added: “Our research suggests that if the social network addresses the necessary ‘mothering or fathering’ then a child does not appear to be affected in adult life.”
The researchers recommend a model to identify and support individuals who may be more vulnerable to less favourable outcomes in adult life and point to the best practice guidelines set by the Childhood Bereavement Network which provide a framework for support of parents of bereaved children.
The research is published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
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