Today’s news from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) makes sobering reading: around 7,000 children born each year in England and Wales are likely to face the death of their mother before they reach 16.
All too often, bereaved children can seem invisible in society. ONS’ work begins to put this right.
We have long campaigned for better official information about the number of children affected by the death of a parent, and how this influences their lives and futures, most recently as part of the Life Matters taskforce. We’re really pleased that ONS is helping to help shine a light on the impact that early bereavement can have.
The numbers are stark, and it’s very painful to think that those babies will face such a huge loss during their childhood.
But we know that many will be very well supported by their dads, their wider family and friends, and their schools, and will manage the challenges that bereavement brings. Others will struggle to get the support they need, and will benefit from help from organised services. That might include creative sessions getting to know other bereaved children, a chance to ask the questions that have been bothering them about how their mum died, or simply a time to talk about and remember her.
Estimates like today’s are hugely helpful for bereavement services, who need to know how many children in their area might need their support in the future. We need similar information on the number of children who will face the death of their father, brother or sister, or someone else important in their lives.
Of course, from the raw numbers we can’t know which children are likely to face this challenge during their childhood. That’s why our Plan If campaign encourages all parents to put things in place in case they die before their children grow up. Things like appointing guardians, making a will, and writing letters to be opened on future birthdays. While these can never take away the pain of a parent dying, they can make life that bit easier. And of course, once they’re in place, families can get on with the important business of enjoying life together.