Nelson’s Journey is a charity dedicated to supporting children and young people in Norfolk who have experienced the death of someone important to them through bereavement resources. They also raise awareness and support professionals who work with children and young people.
Best For You spoke to Austin, a member of Nelson’s Journey’s Youth Panel, and Lisa, a Child Bereavement Support Worker at Nelson’s Journey.
What does the Nelson’s Journey Youth Panel do?
Austin: We’ve developed resources – there are some downloadable resources on the Nelson’s Journey website!
Lisa: The whole reason we have the Youth Panel is that they’re really in tune with how teenagers and young people feel. All of the adults involved with Nelson’s Journey were teenagers once… but things change, and society is very different!
Austin: When I was helping out with events, I realised how much you can actually do for people. I joined the Youth Panel because I wanted to come up with ideas to help and make it easier for young people to cope with bereavement and losing loved ones.
What sort of things do the bereavement resources talk about? What might help young people who are experiencing bereavement and grief?
Austin: Firstly, I think it’s better to talk about death openly. It’s OK to talk about things you’ve lost! You can also think and talk about the life people lived, as well as about their death.
You can look at all the pictures you have with them, or make a story, song, or picture about them.
Lisa: I volunteered for Nelson’s Journey before becoming a member of staff. I remember that the youth panel came up with a resource about ways to remember someone special.
Austin: I think it focused on ways to remember people on significant dates like birthdays and anniversaries, but you can do the things any time – we voted on which ways were most likely to be popular and helpful.
Lisa: Yes, you chose things like creating a memory box, planting something in memory, or making their favourite cake or visiting their favourite place.
Austin: It can also help other people to help you. If you’re at school or something and you suddenly feel really bad, it might help to be able to go and speak to somebody or take a moment out to process what’s going on.
Those are all lovely ideas. Are significant dates often especially difficult for young people?
Lisa: Obviously, it’s everybody’s personal choice about when and how they want to remember their special person. We often suggest that people might want to take a small amount of time on a significant day to remember someone, like by lighting a candle or something.
It doesn’t have to dominate your thoughts all day, but you’re unlikely to forget about the person on a significant day, so some people find it helpful to plan something to do in their memory.
Do you think that grief stays the same forever, or do people’s feelings and the ways they cope change with time?
Austin: I think that when you’re first bereaved, it does hit you very hard. Over time, people can start to accept it’s happened and that they can’t change things that have already happened.
Eventually, over time, you start to remember all the good things you experienced with them. That makes it easier to focus on thinking about the good times.
Lisa: It can be tricky. When the Youth Panel are developing their resources, they’re always mindful that most young people will experience a painful loss because the person that died was somebody that they loved. But they also recognize that actually, for some young people, their feelings about the person who died may not all be positive.
Hopefully they’ll have some happy memories of the person who died, but they might also have some really difficult memories. They might feel conflicted if they feel glad someone died because they weren’t very nice or did horrible things.
The Youth Panel are good at recognising that people’s relationships are complex. Some young people might, for example, feel guilty following a death because they feel a sense of relief that somebody died, or they might feel angry if someone took their own life and died by suicide.
It must be very helpful for young people to know that they’re not alone in those feelings and to see lots of different experiences acknowledged. Where can young people go if they’re struggling with grief or bereavement? What bereavement resources are available?
Austin: If you need some more support, if you feel like you can’t handle it by yourself, there are lots of organisations that can guide you through the steps of dealing with bereavement. They can also give your parents or friends techniques that they can use to help you.
In North West London, people can also contact Grief Encounter, who aim to give children and young people access to the best possible support following the death of someone close.