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The Loss Champion

An approach to supporting children through bereavement and loss that is making a huge difference

My name is Lucy Lynch and I work as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) and Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) at Craneswater Junior School in Portsmouth.

I’m also a Loss Champion.

A few years ago I was asked to undertake bereavement and loss training as part of my ELSA role. The thought of looking more closely into death terrified me as it would so many of you, I’m sure.

Inspiring

However, due to the nature of the ELSA role in school, and the fact that death was not a topic which had been really covered in the ELSA training, I decided that this would be an opportunity to support my school community by learning about loss in more depth.  

The training lasted for several days over an extended period. It was led by a qualified, inspiring, and amazing mental health nurse and lead practitioner in Portsmouth.

Her ethos was always that if you are to support children, you need to be able to answer as many of their questions as possible.

During the training, we not only studied information surrounding loss and bereavement, but we also visited a crematorium and had training at a local funeral premises, where we explored death in much more detail.

Enthralled

I became fully enthralled with the training and my interest in this hugely important but overlooked area blossomed.

I knew I wanted to pursue this role further.

Since then, my confidence has grown in this area, I have a Bereavement Counselling Certificate and became accredited as counsellor and yes, I am a Loss Champion.

Every afternoon in school, I am allocated hours to take individuals and groups of children for sessions.

As part of my bereavement and loss work, I have a bank of resources collected from over the years, such as books, bereavement and loss packs (see the links below) and other sensory tools for the children to use as we explore the topic of living with loss. 

Much of my day involves working with children to support their emotional well-being, loss-related sadness and their grief.

Laughing, Smiling and Much More Settled

I have always found, that talking about loss and death openly and honestly helps children offload their fears and come to terms with what is happening within their own lives.

Together we help them address their concerns and face their grief.

Together, we help them move forwards, sharing their feelings, offering solutions and exploring ideas and activities.

There is nothing more rewarding for me than when, at the end of a session, they return to class laughing, smiling and much more settled. 

What’s more, as a school, we have system of record keeping that helps us monitor their progress.

After all, grief is an ongoing process that evolves over time but never goes away.

Signposting

I am now also the city Bereavement & Loss Network Lead, which means I coordinate and chair our Loss and Bereavement Network for Portsmouth schools.

School staff are encouraged to attend approximately four meetings per year alongside contacting me for resources, support and signposting.

The network brings together ELSAs and local support services across the city, providing a forum to share practice, advice and support each other with loss and bereavement in our local schools.

As part of the network, I collaborate with charities and support services across the city and beyond, also researching suicide prevention and gathering together resources to share with colleagues who support children throughout primary and secondary education.

Our networking brings about a sense of togetherness across the city, and as part of this support we share our feelings and experiences openly.

Members of the team have expressed the need to attend and ‘get together’ because the work we engage in takes our own emotional wellbeing to another level.

We often feel the need to offload and to know that the network is there to support us.  

Worthwhile Websites

When it comes to signposting, the websites I find most useful and would encourage anyone involved in this work to check out are as follows:

Books have benefitted my work too, enabling me to explore my interest in supporting children and families through bereavement and loss in more depth.

Independent Thinking on Loss

The book written by Ian Gilbert and his three children, Independent Thinking on Loss, helped move my thinking forwards in so many ways. It has helped, me feel more confident, for example, in how I manage what I say to a class of children when asked by a teacher to inform their class of the death of someone close to a class member.

Everything about this book has played a part in the development of my role and I have shared the book with the network and other colleagues across the board.

It is easy to follow and suitably brief and to the point. I would fully recommend reading it and making sure there is a copy at hand in every school for when that fateful day arises – as it will.

These challenging times can be made easier by following a school bereavement policy, which is why I have put together a policy from the Simon Says template, making changes to suit our school and enabling us to access the information quickly. 

You can download it here.

I hope this has helped you understand a little about the role of Loss Champions like me and how important our work is.

I also hope it will encourage all schools to make sure they have a Loss Champion too.

When dealing with bereavement, children are at risk in so many ways. We can help them as they navigate this terrible time and that help will stay with them throughout their lives.

It is the most important work. [ITL]

 

Independent Thinking on Loss (an updated version of The Little Book of Bereavement) is written by Ian Gilbert with his three children William, Olivia and Phoebe. And yes, every school should have one. Royalties to Winston's Wish.

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