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Talking to children about death dying and bereavement – Is it time for a change in the school curriculum?

02 June 2020
Volume 1 · Issue 3
 The display board with students' answers
The display board with students' answers


Open and honest communication between families is integral to caring for patients with progressive terminal illnesses. Talking to children about death, dying and bereavement, however, has always been a taboo subject. The specialist palliative care team in Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust share how they succesfully collaborated with a local secondary school to encourage young people to talk about these subjects.

The Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care Partnership (2015) established a national framework urging local NHS organisations and authorities to act to improve end of life care for people of all ages. The framework sets out six ambitions supporting the care of patients approaching end of life, these build upon the foundation of the End of Life Care Strategy (2008).

End of life care has been under the spotlight and many improvements have been made over the years. Poor communication, however, remains a topic that is highlighted by many (Hanna et al, 2009). Talking to children about death, dying and bereavement has often been seen as a taboo subject. We know that death is 100% certain. We also know that children often worry that their parents or those close to them may die. Therefore, why do we not talk more openly with children? Dame Cicely Saunders' famous quote ‘How people die remains in the memory of those who live on’ (1984), prompt us to ensure that everyone has a good death. However, children can often be forgotten when discussing death, dying and bereavement.

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