How bereavement affects young people
says Dr Hamilton. But through working in primary schools, she noted distraction techniques were more likely to see used by teachers working with bereaved children. She also noticed negative labels given to children who appeared to be grieving beyond the timelines their teachers and peers deemed appropriate.
The lack of knowledge and tools for managing this had always been something Sukh had found strange, but when her own son died suddenly, she saw first hand how her teenage daughter had to navigate bereavement in this social context. That was when she decided she had to do something.
Spurred to change the narrative around bereavement on all levels, Sukh believes that normalising conversations around death from early in life whilst training teachers and caregivers can help remove the issues unresolved grief can cause later on, such as causing some people to wonder what the point was in further education.
Is grief an illness?
But what about those who do choose to take higher education? Sukh says every transition can create new reflections and experiences of a bereavement university wellbeing services could provide vital support here. She asked volunteers from the student union to come forward and share their experiences of bereavement. What she found was surprising:
Given the dramatic impact, grief can have upon an individual to focus, concentrate and carry out day-to-day tasks, Dr Hamilton thinks this warrants further research. She found that students were reluctant to even classify grief as a reason for applying for extensions on work due.
Further exploration needed
Sukh’s other work looks at gender and British Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women. It was this background that caused her to notice another trend: the self-selecting volunteers for her study were predominantly female, and all white. This raises the question of where taboo and cultural belief can be further limiting men and ethnic minorities from reaching support services where available.
As a result of this research, Sukh has suggested introducing peer-support groups for bereaved students and training for tutors and course leaders on how to have conversations and help provide support to students experiencing bereavement at this level. She also supports the need for further education and tool-sharing amongst teachers and caregivers handling grief in younger children.