I am fortunate in that I am not a member of this club that no one wants to be part of, the parents who have lost a child. I have a few friends who have unfortunately had their child pass away and seen from their experiences that the support out there is very much a lottery depending on who your employer is and what charities are available in your area.
When a child dies there is often siblings who are grieving too and even if there isn’t there are plans to be made for a funeral and of course official things to be done like registering the death and informing schools, benefit agencies, etc. I can not begin to imagine the stress of all of this alongside grieving for your own child. There must be support out there financially and emotionally to help at such a difficult time?
Well no, it turns out there actually isn’t! How crazy is that? Legally an employer does not have to give you any time off at all! There are charities that can help emotionally and a few that can help with certain financial costs but at this stressful time applying and contacting them will be hard and take time I am sure. The immediate issues around finances should not be a concern whilst you are grieving for a child, but sadly it is.
A friend of mine, Catherine, upon the death of their daughter Alicia encountered this when the company her husband works for, a lighting factory, was only able to offer unpaid leave. Sadly this is not an unusual situation so Lucy’s tireless campaigning and petitions have addressed this and hopefully the inclusion of some leave in the manifestos means things will change. This is not guaranteed though is it, I am sure it wont be the first time that manifestos have included subjects that actually haven’t been addressed as adequately as people hoped!
So, if you are a parent, how would you cope if your child died? It isn’t a topic we think of in general but it is an important one, would taking unpaid leave be an option? Would you like to know that people in this situation had a minimum statutory entitlement? Why should anyone have to work the day after their child’s funeral?
When it comes to emotional support there is fortunately a little more help out there though this does mostly come down to charities. A friend of mine Gayle set up a charity called A Child Of Mine following the death of her son Lewis. A Child of Mine supports families and works with professionals when a child dies. They provide support for families when they need it most. Confidential emotional support – either 1-2-1 by phone or email. They also provide direct support services to families within Staffordshire to support the whole family. A Child of Mine also work closely with professionals, providing training and education on the needs and expertise of bereaved parents to ensure they can improve the care they give. If you want to find out more about them go to www.achildofmine.org.uk.
Other charities that offer emotional support include Saying Goodbye, Child Bereavement UK, and various smaller local charities around the country. Practical financial support is still limited. I spoke to a PHD student who unfortunately found that following the death of her daughter the financial support was none existent as her maternity leave was stopped after 6 months and as she was a student and had paid no national insurance contributions there was no statutory benefits available. In this situation like my friend Catherine who I mentioned above, it meant her partner had to return to work before he felt ready to do so.
Sadly as much as bereavement, especially that of losing a child, is a little spoken about subject, it still happens, and it happens more frequently that it should. There is very little we can do to stop people unfortunately losing their child but we can help ensure that when people do there is more support out there! A blogging friend of mine recently wrote this post which truly highlights the lack of care she experiences when her child died “The things I wish I had knowns before I lost my baby”. Please consider signing the petition so that this is considered such a big issue by government and then depending on the outcome of the general election and as such the ongoing support available. You can sign here. If you want to follow Lucy and her campaign you can find her on Twitter and Facebook.
I hope that while this isn’t a nice subject to read about you appreciate that I feel this is an important subject to share. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I am sure you will agree that hopefully times will change and in the near future there will be a statutory bereavement leave available for parents, and perhaps other close relatives following a death.
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