It’s great to see Dying Matters Awareness Week (May 18 – 24th) focusing on making plans for the future, for after you die, with the simple slogan ‘Talk. Plan. Live.’ Here at the Childhood Bereavement Network, we think it’s particularly important for parents with young children to do this, and our ‘Plan If’ campaign is fully behind the Dying Matters theme. Plan If encourages all parents to put in place the sort of practical and personal things that would make a difference to their children and families if they should die while their children were still young.
We asked parents with children under 18 what plans they had made and were surprised at the large number whose plan simply seems to involve crossing their fingers and hoping it never happens! We hope to make it easier for people to Talk about what might happen, Plan for the future and then Live life to the full.
We know from listening to bereaved children that security and stability are really important after a parent dies. For example, being able to stay in the same bedroom in the same house – and go to the same school with the same friends – can help a child feel a little safer in a suddenly bewildering and altered world.
For children to be safe and secure after a parent has died, the key practical things would be appointing guardians (in our survey, half of parents had not done so), thinking about a will (only a quarter of the parents in our survey had an up-to-date one) and having some insurance in place to cover the costs of a mortgage or other living costs.
The key personal things would become increasingly important as the child grows older, for example, a letter from the parent (some lovely inspiration here), maybe a card to open on a special occasion in the future and some stories about their parent and family history.
We know this is really hard to think about this. But it is really important because parents of young children do die, however tightly they cross their fingers. A parent of dependent children dies every 22 minutes in the UK. That means that around 111 children and young people are bereaved every day.
Many parents think that they will be able to sort things out when they are older, or if they became ill. Yet, in reality, one in four deaths of parents of dependent children is unexpected (car collisions, heart attacks, other accidents).
We hope we have made creating a Plan If straightforward and matter-of-fact by breaking the items down into things that can be done This Week, This Month and This Year. And once it’s done, you can get on and enjoy life! It is one of many reason why we support Dying Matters and their TalkPlanLive campaign.