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working through tragedy

How do you talk to a child about death?

A new online resource has been launched to help primary school teachers deal with bereavement.

IRISH PRIMARY SCHOOL teachers have had a new online resource made available to them to assist in dealing with bereaved children.

The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network (ICBN) yesterday launched its ‘Listen with eyes, ears and heart’ campaign.

The new service includes a four-minute animation, a video of teachers talking about dealing with cases of bereavement and support materials on how to do so.

What is included in the service?

Included in the service is help identifying the needs of child and in what circumstances teachers should seek further assistance.

This is laid out in ‘The Irish Childhood Bereavement Care Pyramid, which specifies the framework for managing bereavement.

bereavement pyramid

To view the pyramid on the Childhood Bereavement website click here. 

Advice included on the website for teachers is to acknowledge what has happened; ask the child how you can help; be flexible and understanding; create a supportive environment; and to maintain routine.

The website is the first of its kind in Ireland and has been developed through collaboration between a number of bodies, including the ICBN, NUI Maynooth, the Irish Hospice Foundation and independent bereavement specialists.

ESRI research has found that 2.2% of nine-year-olds have lost a parent, 1.1% a sibling, 7% an aunt or uncle, and 6% a close friend.

By the age of nine more than a quarter of Irish children have lost a grandparent.


The service was given its official launch yesterday by independent Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell. Speaking at the launch, she said:

Bereavement in childhood is bereavement for life. Thus supporting children through their traumatic and joyous life events is as much a part of the role of education as learning to read and write.

Also speaking at the launch, Therese Hegarty, lecturer in Maynooth University, said, “teachers sometimes panic and imagine that an expert counsellor is needed. While a small minority of children will need counselling, most children come through bereavement with the support of family, friends and community, but it takes time.”

Read: Children are more likely to turn to their pets than siblings during tough times

Also: Teachers are being trained to spot the ‘warning signs’ of suicide

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