It’s difficult to cope with bereavement as an adult. Life as we’ve known it ceases to be the same and we struggle to understand why someone close to us has been taken away. Sometimes we feel anger…at outsiders who don’t understand how we feel, at friends and family, often we feel anger at the person who has passed away, who has abandoned us.
If it’s so hard for us adults to cope, to understand and deal with loss, then how can we expect children to understand death?
I’d noticed M quietly digging alone when I was observing a TA running the gardening club. The other children would occasionally glance across. One or two approached him, offered him the watering can, some seeds, that kind of thing. Mostly people just left him alone, digging quietly. I did briefly wonder about him but concentrated on the TA leading the group.
At the end of the club, when all the parents and carers had picked up the children, M walked slowly to where his brother was waiting. I heard the TA remind them both to go straight to Gran’s house, and I waited for her to rejoin me. She explained that M’s Mum had died the day before but he had wanted to come to school – to carry on as normal – as if anything ever could be normal again for a child of 8 who’d lost his mother.
The following month I was back in the school and chatting with the TA about the merits of gardening. I’ve always thought it a great idea to involve the kids as much as possible. The TA explained that the children had drawn up a seasonal plan for the growing areas. They decided what was to be grown and, in addition to this, they had mapped out different parts of the garden for different uses. Onions, potatoes, runner beans and such in a particular area, flowers for cutting in another. What surprised me was the area they had marked out for use as a remembrance garden. They wanted a quiet area where any child could go to reflect, an area where bereaved children could sit and remember in peace. When a child felt stressed, lost, sad, they could go to the remembrance garden.
To see these youngsters considering the feelings of their classmates in this way brought a huge lump to my throat.
It’s there now.