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A new book to help children who are suddenly bereaved is being launched Wednesday 11 November, as research reveals that schools are struggling to support bereaved pupils and need more help to do it effectively.
 
The Amy & Tom project, a charitable initiative aiming to help children suddenly bereaved by any cause has joined forces with the UK’s leading funeral director, The Co-operative Funeralcare, to publish the book, Someone has died suddenly. Bereaved families and other carers, including teachers, can order the book at a discounted price.
 
Sadly, most schools will have one or more pupils who have been bereaved suddenly. One of the hardest challenges that a bereaved child may have to face is going back to school while still suffering from deep grief.
 
Yet seven in ten schools surveyed by the Amy & Tom project on behalf of The Co-operative Funeralcare said they lacked sufficient resources and access to services to support these vulnerable pupils effectively. The research, conducted almost 100 UK schools attended by about 40,000 pupils aged from four to 18 also found:
 
* Eight in ten schools surveyed do not have a written school bereavement support policy.
 
* Of the two in ten that did, many of these policies are inadequate:
 
* Half do not include information about how to obtain bereavement support literature;
 
* Seven in ten do not provide comprehensive advice for teachers;
 
* Two thirds do not give advice on how to work with parents or guardians effectively;
 
* A third do not have a named member of staff acting as bereavement support officer; and
 
* A third do not have information on how to access local counselling services.
 
The schools surveyed reported an average of two children bereaved every year, and said many of these pupils suffered from mood swings, under-performed in schoolwork and had difficulties joining in group activities or discussions. They also found it difficult to interact with their friends, making them more vulnerable to bullying. (See bottom of this release for more data on these survey findings.)
 
The 40-page children’s book Someone has died suddenly is a colourful and warm picture book designed to be read with an adult and to help children of all ages cope and recover to go on to lead full and happy lives. It is based on the findings of academic studies on how to help suddenly bereaved children and has been prepared in partnership with suddenly bereaved families.
 
Children are taken through the book by characters Amy and Tom, two children who have been suddenly bereaved themselves. The book provides:
* information about strong feelings and how to cope
* information about what happens after a sudden death and why
* questions to stimulate discussion, such as 'Did they feel any pain?' and 'What's going to happen to their body?'
* beautiful, warm illustrations that children want to look at, and interesting fact boxes
* work book activities, including writing a poem and collecting memories
* advice for adults on how to use the book effectively
 
The book can be ordered by schools for the special discounted price of £4.99, with lower prices for bulk orders. Images of the book can be seen on the website www.amyandtom.org
 
Mary Williams OBE, author of the book, said: "A sudden death in the family is devastating for children. Children may feel unable to ask questions they desperately want answered; terrified of the extreme emotions they are experiencing; and overwhelmingly sad. They may lash out, withdraw from their social group, or find they are particularly sensitive or vulnerable to bullies. This book aims to help these children and parents, guardians, teachers, health workers and other adult carers to explore their emotions, needs and concerns at the bleakest of times."
 
Lorinda Sheasby, The Co-operative Funeralcare’s Head of Marketing, commented: "We conduct 100,000 funerals each year, and every day, we meet families who are struggling to help children cope with a sudden bereavement. As an organisation at the heart of hundreds of communities across the country, we’re pleased to have funded the Amy & Tom project to carry out this illuminating survey and produce such a fantastic resource for children who are suddenly bereaved."
 
Children’s author Jacqueline Wilson said: "This book is a wonderful and much-needed guide which I am positive will really help children deal with and understand their grief. With its very accessible writing style and eye-catching design, I think it will prove an extremely useful tool for any adult trying to help a child going through a sudden bereavement."