Childhood bereavement

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7045.1496 (Published 15 June 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1496
  1. Dora Black
  1. Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist Traumatic Stress Clinic, London W1P 1LB

    Distress and long term sequelae can be lessened by early intervention

    When Alison Hargreaves lost her life climbing K2 in the Himalayas, her widower was strongly criticised for acceding to their 6 year old son's request to see “mummy's last mountain” and even more so when he took along on the trek their 4 year old daughter. But the ensuing expedition clearly enabled the children to process the information about their mother's death and to begin the task of mourning. As the general practitioner who accompanied and counselled the children reported,1 after seeing the mountain, building a memorial cairn at its base, and using a workbook designed to help young children to understand and come to terms with death,2 Kate was able to say, “Mummy had tried her best to come down and see us, but she just couldn't, the storm was so strong.”

    Bereaved adults caring for young children often deny them the opportunity to understand what has happened to a parent or sibling who has died, in the mistaken belief that the children are best protected from this knowledge or cannot understand it. Yet studies have shown that even …

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