“Daddy isn’t coming back”

Guidance: this News piece explores the themes of suicide and death.

During Children’s Grief Awareness Week (19th-25th November, 2021), and beyond, we are sharing some supportive  resources around bereavement.

Above all, if you feel daunted about discussing death with your child there are charities and organisations that can help you with any queries you may have.

I told the children early on Saturday morning. “Daddy isn’t coming back,” I said as we lay curled into each other in bed. “He didn’t want to live any more and he made himself die.” My son turned his back to me. My daughter cried silent tears into my neck. There are no parenting handbooks for this.”

It has become more common, during the Pandemic, to hear more about people, from all walks of life, dying by suicide.

Veterans have always faced day to day challenges, and it’s not surprising to learn that suicide is a particular risk for veterans.

The following story from SSAFA (the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) explores how Mandy Small approached the charity after her husband took his own life. Mandy found the help from SSAFA invaluable for both herself, and her son:

It was far bigger then we could have even dreamt and people were so generous. The fact that we have been able to turn the worst experience of our lives into a way of helping others makes us extremely proud. I couldn’t be prouder of Jamie, he really is a very special young man.

Depending on our culture it can feel natural to avoid thinking about grief, or bereavement. It’s hard enough to face up to the prospect of the death of a loved one.

And when was the last time you talked about death, down the pub? It’s natural to be embarrassed about sharing sad and frightened feelings, even with close relatives.

That said, it is wonderful to open up, and to discover that you are not alone. There is lots of support out there to help your family through all stages of the journey. Building your confidence takes time, as does supporting your child.

For instance, Cruse, an Information Organisation on Veterans’ Gateway, makes the point that you are not alone. Grief never really goes away, but becomes more manageable over time.

The charity’s many useful resources include how to support someone who is grieving. This acknowledges that common fear of saying “the wrong thing” and how you can really help.

Some things to think about when talking to your child

There are additional considerations when talking with children. The following video explores some common ways that children can react to death, and gives practical help with how you might talk to your child.

For instance, one of the most important things is to use the word “died”, rather than “passed.” Find out why below…

Additionally, Covid has made it even more important to have those discussions…

The number of children bereaved during the coronavirus outbreak should be national news. But after over 20 months of dealing with the pandemic, we have become desensitised to those grieving all around us. We have stopped listening to the bereaved, particularly children and young people. These children are often trying to cope under-the-radar of those around them, unheeded and invisible. (Gail Precious, Coordinator of the Childhood Bereavement Network)

If you need more veteran-friendly advice about families and community please visit Self help . Our Veterans’ Gateway helpline team is also here for you, all year round. Do get in touch  24/7, by chat, text, email, and phone.

Please contact the Samaritans if you are having a crisis. Their teams are always available, and waiting to take your call.

You are not alone.