Parental perspectives on the grief and support needs of children and young people bereaved during the Covid-19 pandemic: Qualitative findings from a national survey

Emily Harrop*, Silvia Goss, Mirella Longo, Kathy Seddon, Anna Torrens-Burton, Eileen J Sutton, Damian Farnell, Alison Penny, Annmarie Nelson, Anthony Byrne, Lucy E Selman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children and young people have experienced the death of close family members, whilst also facing unprecedented disruption to their lives. This study aimed to investigate the experiences and support needs of bereaved children and young people from the perspective of their parents and guardians.

Methods
We analysed cross-sectional qualitative free-text data from a survey of adults bereaved in the UK during the pandemic. Participants were recruited via media, social media, national associations and community/charitable organisations. Thematic analysis was conducted on free text data collected from parent/guardian participants in response to a survey question on the bereavement experiences and support needs of their children.

Results
Free-text data from 104 parent/guardian participants was included. Three main themes were identified: the pandemic-related challenges and struggles experienced by children and young people; family support and coping; and support from schools and services. Pandemic-challenges include the impacts of being separated from the relative prior to their death, isolation from peers and other family members, and disruption to daily routines and wider support networks. Examples were given of effective family coping and communication, but also of difficulties relating to parental grief and children’s existing mental health problems. Schools and bereavement organisations’ provision of specialist support was valued, but there was evidence of unmet need, with some participants reporting a lack of access to specialist grief or mental health support.

Conclusion
Children and young people have faced additional strains and challenges associated with pandemic bereavement. We recommend resources and initiatives that facilitate supportive communication within family and school settings, adequate resourcing of school and community-based specialist bereavement/mental health services, and increased information and signposting to the support that is available.
Original languageEnglish
Article number177
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Volume21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2022

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