Pooky Ponders: How should we talk to children about grief and loss? | Amanda Seyderhelm

Today’s question is “how should we talk to children about grief and loss?” and I’m in conversation with Amanda Seyderhelm an experienced play therapist and enables affected children to make sense of their feelings and to find a comfortable way to express themselves and their worries through their natural language of play.

Listen here:

Watch here:

Further resources:

Helping Children Cope with Loss and Change: A Guide for Professionals and Parents – Amanda’s book

Bereavement: 10 Simple Ways to Support – on demand course

Be the Adult a Grieving Child Needs – on demand course

Support a Grieving Adult – on demand course

Show transcript:

Please note that the transcript is auto generated

Pooky Knightsmith: Welcome and to Pooky ponders the podcast where I explore big questions with brilliant people, I’m Pooky Knightsmith. And I’m your host today’s question is how should we talk to children about grief and loss? And I’m in conversation with Amanda Seder, home and experience play therapist who enables children to make sense of their feelings and to find a comfortable way to express themselves and their worries through their natural language of play.

Amanda Seyderhelm: So, hello cookie. Um, my name is Amanda C to help. I am a child therapist and I help children and teach people how to connect with children through play, uh, using story, uh, because children connect with, um, difficult experiences through story and play, which is their natural language. Um, I’m also the author of a book called helping children cope with loss and change.

They are thank you, which is a guide. It’s a very practical guide for professionals. Um, and for parents helping them navigate, um, how to talk to children about, uh, their grief and their losses, whether that’s bereavement that changing school, um, divorce, it covers a whole spectrum of, of loss for children. 

Pooky Knightsmith: I guess you couldn’t have possibly known when you wrote it quite how relevant it was going to be to so many people, um, in this moment in time, because I guess obviously there’s certainly a lot of bereavement.

At the moment, but also lots of kind of losses operation. I’m working with lots of people who are saying that there’s issues where children have been, been, been kind of parted. W why did you write it? What 

Amanda Seyderhelm: inspired it? Hmm, great question. I wrote before this book, I wrote a picture book called Isaac and the red jumper, which is a story about a childhood bereavement, a little boy who loses his best friend.

Uh, and when he does his red jumper turns gray and it’s through the process of, of coming to terms with that loss that he’s jumped turns back to red. Um, that was the inspiration really for, uh, looking at how story can help children unpack and tell their own stories. And Ratledge saw it and said what I write to collection of stories and that really.

Started a conversation about, well, how do we talk to children really about grief and loss? What is the arc of that conversation? Um, so it was really a very dynamic commission because it was through talking to them, but we, we, we both really discovered that what was needed was a framework to hang the stories on and to look at loss, um, and grief in, in the, in the broader context.

So really it evolved, it was an evolution. It was a conversation that began with a picture book. Um, And, uh, and grew, grew out of that ready Griffin 

Pooky Knightsmith: framework. Look like, can you explain that a little

Amanda Seyderhelm: bit? The, the context is loss, whatever that says. And however we define it produces change and it’s that equation really, that needs to be held in a therapeutic context, in a, an educational context, and to recognize that whatever the loss is there, it will produce a change for a child.

And it’s, it’s not looking at them in isolation. It’s looking at them together. And that through looking at the change, we then look at what needs to be resolved. And it’s coming to terms with the resolution aspects of the change that produces the resilience. So there are four parts to the framework.

Really one is to identify. The loss itself and to name it, you know, to really, to, to name it for the child as well, um, to identify the change that producers, and as you say, separation is a key part of all of this, looking at what that separation means. Um, for the childhood, he produces huge anxiety, massive anxiety.

I’m seeing a lot of us at the moment, um, and that automatically, and it does for adults as well. It brings up, um, issues that have been perhaps unresolved, um, from, from the past or even from the present, you know, whatever the relationship, uh, whatever relationship is is being looked at. And then only then can we look at resilience?

So for me, it it’s it’s is, uh, and it’s fluid as well. It’s not a rigid step system. Um, but it it’s helpful to have that. Framework to then place story within. So story usually comes within the change element, the change possible framework. When you’re looking at change, you’re looking at story cause that’s narrative, that’s Victor, that’s imagination, that’s creativity.

Um, that’s where you open it up, how you open it up or you open up that conversation and 

Pooky Knightsmith: it change. Does it refer to when you’re talking about change? I mean, change is a kind of big word, encompasses many things. W w what kind of thing we’re looking at there? 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Um, if we’re looking at divorce, let’s say it can often mean huge change in terms of lifestyle.

It can mean a child moving or losing a home, uh, gaining another that’s actually the change aspect is the transition. It’s learning to navigate that transition from. Something that may be not necessarily, but maybe secure a secure base home may not be. Um, but whatever it is, it’s familiar, however uncomfortable or comfortable that is it’s familiar.

So the change is the loss of ritual loss of routine or some familiarity. Um, and actually those things are quite common in all aspects of change. If, if, uh, for instance of a teacher, you know, the children returning to school, they may find not all the teachers are there. We don’t know how many of those have died.

Um, you know, have, have had to move into a different location. Can’t go back to school. So the change that will be again, um, around familiarity, um, and that will automatically trigger well routine. I always go and do certain things with my teacher and I can’t do this anymore. So it’s about then the change would be, I’ve got to now build.

A new relationship with a new person, which can bring up other losses around. Well, if I am in a family environment where, you know, mom and dad or whatever the structure is of that family, if they’ve separated, that’s going to trigger separation anxiety. So then the change, that’s like a chain reaction. Um, but it’s always around ritual, reestablishing, ritual re-establishing routine transition, um, that that’s, that’s always in the mix.

There was change. 

Pooky Knightsmith: So how do we go about helping children to kind of. What through that process of kind of managing that change and, and reestablishing routine and, and, and ritual. You, you talked already a bit about, you know, officer story in play and that’s your very much your areas. I mean, w yeah, tell me how, what, what, what do you do?

How’d you make it work? 

Amanda Seyderhelm: I think the first thing we need to do is to recognize and accept, um, and this isn’t always easy to do that children are adults, so they don’t, and they don’t therefore process things in the same way. So, um, The first thing I always say is don’t confront a child, uh, who’s grieving, um, and ask them directly how they’re feeling that question itself can be quite confrontational, quite invasive, um, and it can make a child shut down and withdraw and that can make them isolated.

And then you’re into another sort of spirals. So don’t ask them, how are, you know, that can be a very confronting question. And actually, um, I’ve seen young children sort of in five, six year olds when they are confronted with the question. So how do you feel about, you know, the fact that, you know, dad has just died or mum has just died and you can see them physically recoiling from the person.

Uh, as if to say, I don’t know what you mean. And literally their brains cannot compute, can not understand, cannot process that question. Um, It’s too big. It’s too. Um, uh, what’s the word I’m looking for? Um, rational really. It’s not in their language. So the second thing is to communicate in a language that children understand, which is, which is play and to introduce early on, um, a Reese, something creative and use that as a prompt.

That’s your conversational prompt. Okay. So rather than it being a question that you and I might say to each other, well, you know, how do you feel about that? Amanda look, lots of what might be going on for you there. We could then Nasser about that and unpack it together. Um, children unpack things in what we call the safe distance of a, of a metaphor of the story.

That’s how they will open up that. That their worlds and their stories and their feelings. So we, we then that’s when we provide them with a, uh, a resource like story to, it’s almost like opening a door. You know, when you, when you introduced that you are literally metaphorically opening the door for a child, you’re saying, come in, sit down, get comfortable on the bean bag together.

And we will, we’ll go on this journey together. You you’re alongside them. And I think when I read, uh, when I read stories to children, I, I tend to, I like to get alongside them physically so that they can feel that presence, you know, obviously it’s, the space will depend on, on that particular child. But, um, so you 

Pooky Knightsmith: get alongside them and you read the story together, or you, you, you play together.

What I mean. What does that process kind of look like? Would you say we’re going to sit and read a story about X now, or, I mean, how would you literally manage that stuff? 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Um, I think it’s helpful to think about it. Um, three things I do when I’m thinking about this is one is it’s the three hours really, it creates a ritual.

Uh, you read and you reflect. So for the tonal, that’s about an invitation. Um, you know, why don’t we sit down in the BMS together and read a story, and of course you will have thought it through beforehand what that story is going to be, unless it’s a story time where you’re going to create a story. And that’s, that’s a different thing that we can talk about separately.

But if it’s a book that you’re reading. I like to think it through beforehand, what that child might want to read about. If the issue is anger, that’s just pick back. Cause it’s a very, very common reaction. I will select a book that’s um, is about that, about a character who is very, very angry. Once the child sits down, I will then read the story.

You know, literally I’m holding the book, I’m turning the pages go very slowly. Um, allowing space and time for the child to actually imagine. Cause there’s a lot of imagination going on in the storytelling that they are that character, if they, the minute they start to, um, point and say, Oh, you know, um, yeah, Marvin, the sheet is getting very cross about that, you know?

Oh yeah. Yeah. I get that. You’re in that’s when the child has decided that they are going to engage. And really then it’s a process of just carrying that through to the end and then using that story to, um, ask us questions, you know? So have you, have you, do you feel that, you know, that might be something you can relate to and just test the water, but the rule is usually if a child is talking about the character in the book, rather than personalizing going, I feel like that yeah.

Stay, stay with the metaphor, stay with that. 

Pooky Knightsmith: So it’d be led by yeah. The frame of reference that they’re kind of using. And would you stick with those characters? So if you’ve had Marvin the sheet, would you then refer to that sheet in other wider conversations or just whilst you’re literally reading 

Amanda Seyderhelm: that book, um, just while you’re reading the book, um, you could, you could return to Marvin, um, in a later session or a conversation in an interaction, you know, as a reflection and say, remember, remember Marvin and, and see what that, uh, prompts.

Um, but usually it, the child will remember and won’t go, yeah, I do remember that. And then at some point it will be, I remember the I then comes back in and that’s important. It is because that’s the point at which I realized. The child has bridged that gap between, um, usually shock and some kind of recognition that the experience they’ve had, how it’s affecting them.

So it’s not sorry, go on. No, no, just going to say, is 

Pooky Knightsmith: that part of, uh, the kind of grief process? I mean, do you see a typical movement through it, through a process or 

Amanda Seyderhelm: what does that look like? Um, I think in the very early stages of a bereavement where someone’s actually died, um, young children tend to almost do what we call puddle jumping.

They, they can jump in and out of their grief very quickly. And there, the arc of their grieving process does not mirror the, the familiar ones that, you know, like the five stages of grief, the Kubler-Ross model. Um, children’s grief is very different in that they, they can be very sad. Um, one moment and then the next moment they can be very, um, joyful and that can make, I’ve seen adults get very distressed about that.

You know, why, why is, why is Sammy suddenly skipping around the garden? It’s a funeral today. What, why they’re doing that? Well, they’re doing it because they can’t actually process the feelings, um, that they’re actually feeling. So what I see as a delayed reaction, and I think it can be very tempting sometimes to think, Oh, they’re fine.

Children are fine. They’re fine. They’re not having any bad reaction. They’re okay. Usually it just means it’s become, it’s gone underground and it will be an external pressure or event at school that will suddenly trigger them. And then they’ll be having a meltdown. Um, and then the question is why they have the meltdown.

What’s what, what what’s happening actually, it’s the loss, that’s just become very real for them. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. So it’s been kind of held and then suddenly something sort of triggered that response. If a child is doing that kind of puddle jumping that you described, should they be encouraged to actually sit with the more difficult feelings or should we embrace if they want to laugh and smile and 

Amanda Seyderhelm: jump around?

Yeah. Um, w we, we should be led by them. So I think the it’s interesting. I was talking to a father yesterday whose wife, um, had died leaving four young children and yeah, I know. Wow. It was yeah, very hard. And he, he said, you know, the thing is the difficult thing is

when they need me, it’s the floor and be with. Hi, or it can happen when they’re putting them to bed. It doesn’t happen on a schedule when I think I’m available and I’m going to now spend some time with my children talking about, you know, losing their mum. And I hear that a lot and it’s very difficult to do in a busy, a busy house or in the business school.

But it’s, it’s really important that we give children the message that yes, we can respond to them when they need us. So if they are joyful accept that they are having a joyful moment because it may not last for very long. And then they will be in the depths of their sadness and despair. And we need to sit with them with that as well.

Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: I’m wondering like that father that you mentioned, how it doesn’t feel for the adult around the child or children, if they’re doing that jumping in and out of that grief, because there’s the adults grief to consider as well. Isn’t there. Absolutely. 

Amanda Seyderhelm: And how, 

Pooky Knightsmith: yeah, w what would you advise there? I mean, if you’re an adult who is grieving and your child is grieving very differently than you, how can you be the adult that they need?

Amanda Seyderhelm: It’s a great question. Um, and there’s no, there’s no slick. Um, so to that, I think it’s, it is a literally a moment by moment, um, experience and, uh, and, um, a compassionate response as well to the fact that we’re not always going to get it right. There may be times when the adults. Can’t always be the adult, but the key, I think the children is to know that you’re in it together.

Okay. That what ever the response is going to be. It is never their fault. It’s not, it’s not something they’ve done wrong. And I think with, with grief, there’s a loss of guilt that can, that can creep in. Um, and it can get quite corrosive if it’s not just called out, you know, there’s no there’s and shame that can come very quickly with, from that too.

Um, I think that’s the point which you sink to your knees, you just literally sync to your knees and you say I’m going to put everything aside. I, I know I should be. Doing something else, but actually we are just going to sit here together for 10 minutes. Um, and that 10 minutes will probably save hours of time because the child will feel held and heard.

And actually it might help the adult to, to realize that it’s about the connection to the, the feeling. Um, and I think often when I talk to parents about their own grief response, it, it usually has a resonance, a deep resonance for them with prejudice losses. And so, you know, you touch one, you, you start to touch the others.

So very quickly, it’s like a piece of elastic that, that starts to get, you know, get, get tired and then it’s suddenly it snaps. Um, and that’s the point at which to think, well, actually as an adult, do I need, what support do I need to put in place? For myself, is it, is it something creative? Is it something, um, you know, where I need to talk it out, um, doing, I mean, I’ve heard you talk about loss about, you know, having support around you and having the right level of support.

And I think something I recognize, you know, it’s really important to have, um, grown up support as well, not to, you know, serve for the children too. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And do you think that as an adult who is involved with the child’s grief, so maybe you’re their parent or carer, and so you’re deeply involved with it or perhaps you just know them and the person who’s died.

You’ve known them a long time. You might be their teacher or support staff or someone who’s involved and you might be feeling this grief too. Do you need to. Be kind of, you know, strong and brave and supportive or is it okay to really sink into that grief and really feel it with the child? 

Amanda Seyderhelm: I think it’s a really great question.

I think there are two parts to that. Um, yes, it’s important to sink in, but not too far to the point where, um, the adult part of you almost takes over and become overshadows if you like the child, because they won’t be able to understand that necessarily. So you have to hold yourself, um, and in holding yourself, allow the real, the raw part of you to just consider enough.

So that there’s a, there’s a connection there. But not to the point where you’re using that time to just go, Oh, you know, I’m offloading. Um, uh, because I really, I finding this very, very difficult, but also it’s, um, I refer to it in my book. There’s, um, a quote it’s it’s learning to bear the unbearable. Um, and we, we learn to bear the unbearable by creating small enough rituals for ourselves so that when those moments occur, we don’t get so overwhelmed by them.

Um, but it can be really challenging to sink in, but it can also sometimes be very tempting to do that. It’s just learning where you can sink in, but not to the point where you can’t get up again, you know? Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Um, so is it okay to cry with the child? 

Amanda Seyderhelm: I think it’s, I personally think it is important to do that, to do that for the child to see, um, that it’s okay to do that.

You know, that’s, it’s sort of permission led, um, and they see, they see mommy and daddy, uh, expressing their feelings and kind of normalizing that response rather than it being, you know, we’ve got to keep it all in the bottle and smile our way through it and be stoic. I think that’s the sort of, um, that’s, that’s more difficult and it’s harder because the message can then be that, you know, it’s not okay.

It’s not okay. That’s it doesn’t say, I think 

Pooky Knightsmith: sometimes children are better at it than, than we are. Maybe the sort of natural response that children have to bereavement is, is perhaps in some ways healthier than the way that we learn through our lifetimes and how we might feel we should do this as a grownup.

I don’t know. Maybe that’s not right, but, 

Amanda Seyderhelm: um, 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. I remember when my children were little, so they’re 10 now, but when I’m trying to think of how long ago it would have been, but we lost a very close family friend who they’d known since they were tiny. And, um, when he died, um, it was at a time when I was still very much, uh, learning to, uh, feel.

Um, so I I’ve got a history of finding, feeling difficult. Um, but my children were amazing in their response. And I tried always to create an environment where they could feel, even if I found it hard, but I remember very vividly. Um, very soon after Richard died, Lara sitting on my knee. Um, and just saying to me, mommy, I think maybe we need to have a good cry about it.

And it was a very kind of, you know, she’s very articulate about it. Yeah. And I remember thinking with her, you know, and just say, I think maybe you’re right, actually. Um, we did, and it was, it felt so much better. I think for both of us that we did that, but I just remember this very, uh, child, like I think we need to have a good cry.

Amanda Seyderhelm: Yeah. Yeah. I, I remember, I think that’s, that’s beautiful that you were able to take, take your lead from, from her. Um, I remember when my, um, one of my goddaughters, uh, came to stay just after I’d recovered from cancer. And this is, this is many, many years ago and I was washing her hair and I was, you know, combing it out.

And, um, she said, uh, you know, I, I know that you’ve been, you’ve been really, really, really, really poorly. And she’d just lost someone, someone else in her family to cancer. And I just knew she was basically using code to say, are you going to die? You know? Um, and I just said, I’m, I’m not going anywhere. You know, I’m here for you.

It’s okay. Um, and the hug, you know, the hug got, got tighter and tighter and tighter. So sometimes it’s just saying something small, um, just catching it, catching the, um, the moment. Um, and that’s all that’s needed, you know, then things skip off again and, um, and carry on. Um, yeah, lots of little 

Pooky Knightsmith: moments. I think that that is a kind of a right way and a wrong way to do this.

Are there things that we should be kind of catching ourselves and definitely kind of not doing, um, or should we be kind of more intuitive and, 

Amanda Seyderhelm: um, I feel strongly that one thing we should be doing is. Recognizing that that grief is real and it exists for children. And I think I’m concerned about this as the children return to school in September, that they will be a pressure on them to learn, um, academic li, but there, there needs to be, I believe a, a period of time where there’s lots of space and lots of reflection so that, um, they’ve got the head space to be able to do that.

I think grief can sometimes be very invisible and it’s about making it more visible. Um, and I don’t see that enough in schools and we know the stats, you know, the stats are that one child in every classroom is bereaved and that was before COVID, you know, now we’ve got higher numbers. Um, Of that, you know, what is it?

46,000 people have died. So that’s, you know, 46,000 families. Who’ve had some kind of, um, bereavement. Um, yeah, I’d like to see, I’d like to see all schools having, not just a bereavement policy, because I think bereavement policies can be about management. They can be about letting people know about, um, Depths and, and, but not necessarily putting in place the, the support that, that children and staff need, um, in order to cope with that.

I mean, I had a case recently where I was contacted by a school. Um, little boy had, had died. He drowned and, uh, he was eight, eight years old and the, um, the school absolutely devastated and it, it affected everybody in that school and it wasn’t just the family. It was, everyone needed to have some way of, uh, being able to, to cope with and express that grief.

And the shocking thing was that that particular school didn’t have a bereavement policy and they didn’t have any supporting place at all. They were literally doing it from the ground up. So yes, I would like to see. Um, therapeutic storytelling introduced in all schools so that there is a story time approach to bereavement.

Um, because I think that’s as important as, as just making sure that you’ve ticked the boxes and let everybody know about who knows what and where everybody’s, uh, is everybody on the same page? Are people going to the funeral or not? That’s all very important, but, um, as important is the sort of the response, the emotional response to that, putting that support in place.

And you 

Pooky Knightsmith: use, um, play as well as storytelling to it. How does that play out 

Amanda Seyderhelm: if you, um, well, playing, playing out is, is really telling stories just through different mediums. So in addition to a story I use, uh, painting and, uh, drawing, um, music and sand, you know, the, the play therapy kit has all these different mediums in them, the little miniature objects and figures the team use to tell, to tell stories.

Um, and really when a child comes into the room, they are because it’s a child centered approach. They will select, they will. Self-select the meeting that they want to work with. Um, my job really is to. Facilitate that is to be able to, um, be quiet enough, um, so that they can use the medium to tell me the story that they are acting out perhaps from their behavior somewhere else.

Um, so yes, I would say drawing and painting or two of the most useful mediums. Um, but, but they are really just mediums. It’s about the relationship really, and the trust and the rapport that, that I build with them in the room. And that’s, that’s something again that I think I’d like to see that, uh, being duplicated as well, because it’s a model that, um, I mean, not everybody can have play therapy, not every school can have a play therapist, but what is possible is to use the.

The reflective, um, tools that can be, that are used in play therapy. Those can be used in the schools as well. And particularly during this 

Pooky Knightsmith: time, I was going to say, I mean, yeah, every, every school is going to have children about him that concerned whether there’s been a bereavement or another form of loss or separation.

Um, and so I think many people will be looking to step up, but there’s a fear there isn’t there because you know, someone like yourself, who’s got many, many years of training and expertise in this versus say a teaching assistant who has got a really strong relationship with the child, but hasn’t been trained in this.

And is it okay for them to 

Amanda Seyderhelm: do this? Uh, no. Would be my short answer to that. Um, for two reasons, one is I think if you’ve not had the therapeutic training, you. It’s very difficult to know what you’re holding and what you’re potentially unpacking innocently and from the very best of intentions. But if you are unpacking a child’s emotional experience, without that, it can be quite dangerous.

Um, because you’re, you may be leaving the child on the held, um, and you yourself may also then, you know, you’ve got to then deal with that experience. So, um, I think it would be safer. Um, if teaching assistants could have supervision so that they had a place to go and take and process themselves. Um, but I see this a lot.

And without that supervision in place, it’s not a safe environment to be doing that. No. Um, 

Pooky Knightsmith: key issue, the 

Amanda Seyderhelm: supervision, I think supervision is key. Yes. I think if schools are going to introduce. Um, this, this kind of tool, then I think they, they do need to provide regular supervision for those, for those, uh, um, support staff.

Definitely. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And what do you think is the role of the support staff or the cloth teachers or anyone really who might have that, you know, good, positive relationship with the child and really wants to help where maybe they are in an environment where there isn’t yeah. Access to, um, someone like yourself, what should they be doing?

What’s the best thing they can do? 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Um, I think there are two things. I think one is they can learn how to use reflection as a tool in a way that’s safe. Um, that’s, that’s manageable. That’s that can be done in the playground. It can be done in the classroom. Um, That doesn’t unpack things too much. Um, the second thing is I think to put in place a, a resource like storytelling that is actually a very containing experience, it’s allows that it gives the teacher a framework really to say, actually, you know, at this time we are going to spend 15 to 20 minutes, um, together the child then has the expectation that they know they can hold that until that point.

Um, and it allows the, the teacher or the learnings, the teaching system to plan, you know, to build it around their own, their own routine, um, yeah. To sort of, to pound. And that can be, uh, you know, I’ve seen it work really well with groups, not just with classes, not just with individuals. I think there’s something I did a.

A group, um, piece of group work for, uh, for primary school, um, around transition. And, you know, the, uh, the exercise was to build a rocket, you know, we’re going to build a rocket ship together. Um, and we did it over a period of weeks. And what was interesting was how the children connected with each other during that experience, it wasn’t just about building the rocket.

It was, it was about how they learned to be with each other as well. So the story, whatever you’re doing can be, can be done in a group. 

Pooky Knightsmith: So the story doesn’t necessarily have to be kind of specifically about grief and loss. It can be it’s about others building other skills as well, or, I mean 

Amanda Seyderhelm: yeah, behind the rocket.

Yeah. Um, it was for children who were struggling to have social pair relationships and they were, there were different challenges for each one, but, but yeah. The common ground was that they found it difficult to build for it to have friendships. Um, so when they started that group, uh, I think it was a six week group.

There was a lot of silence, you know, nobody wants to take part, no one wants to go first, but as soon as I introduced the idea that we’re going to build this rocket ship together, and there was a bunch of crafting resources in the middle and they could, you know, use these, um, each week, there was a task for them to complete.

So that we’d get a little bit further towards the end of the building, the rocket ship. Um, it was fascinating because they slowly came out of their little shells. You know, they started to dare, I think, dev themselves to pick up. And sometimes it would be, you know, well today I’m going to choose colored paper.

Uh, whereas. You know, I’ve not done that before. Um, can you pass me the glue? Can we share the glue? Can we stick things together? Can we make it to, can we build something together? And, and that was, yeah, it was fascinating really. And it’s not about 

Pooky Knightsmith: the group kind of coming together cause that doing, you know, they’ve got a shared goal or is that about creating a safe environment or is it a mixture of those things?

Amanda Seyderhelm: Uh, I think it’s a mixture of all of those things. I think what was really critical was knowing that each week, a certain time they were going to be decomposing to the, uh, the PE cupboards, you know, um, and that they would be spending that half an hour, 40 minutes together. 

Pooky Knightsmith: That might be an important thing for people to be aware of then as well, if they’re having yeah.

That discreet time and perhaps some sort of structured idea about what might happen in that, but knowing that at this time, that’s when we will create or play or explore. 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Hmm. I think, I think so. And, uh, it was secure. It was, it was a safe boundaried space. Uh, no one was going to come in at that time and say, you’ve got to come to a lesson.

It was, it was their time. Uh, it, I know it sounds like a luxury probably, but it was, it was essential. It was essential time, um, timeout for them. Uh, and they were working very hard in that room. You know, anyone perhaps looking from the outside may have thought, Oh, they’re just building a parachute or they’re building a rocket, but actually they were, they were learning to build our own parachutes and rockets in there.

Um, and through the, the shared experience of. Confronting their own obstacles. So it was very difficult. I remember for one little girl, particularly to ask for help, um, you know, she, she, her, uh, family were very fragmented and that her mom she’s a single mom and it was just the two of them together. She’d become very, um, very attached to her mom.

Uh, and it was hard for her to trust anyone else in the room. Um, but slowly we did a little check-in drawing, which is something I do a lot with, with groups and with children and with adults is draw a picture of how you’re feeling each day on a paper plate. And it doesn’t have to be, it’s not about creating art.

It’s about a representation of how you feel and this little girl. And then it wasn’t days I’m going to call a Daisy and then wasn’t Daisy, but Daisy made these drawings. And to the point where on the final session, she came into the room very quietly, went over and took her paper plate off the pile and grabbed the pencils and started to do, you know, I didn’t have to say, now we’re going to do the check-in.

She was ready. She built that in a confidence to know that that was her plate. That was her plate. She put her feelings on that. Um, so yeah, then, because you’ve built that 

Pooky Knightsmith: lovely relationship and that trust and that safety, and then it ends, I mean, how does that work? 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Oh, it’s heartbreaking. Uh, for me to often say goodbye.

And I think the ending is almost as important as the beginning because the ending can be often a reflection of some broken endings, you know, that have happened before. Um, so I try to build in. Time to prepare for that ending to say early on. Okay. In two weeks time, we are going to be ending this and let’s think about what we need to prepare for that ending.

Yeah. And just by asking the question and putting it in the room, I don’t always get a response, but what has happened is that the idea has been seeded and he’s out there. Um, and then we can play with that. So when you, I think you asked a question about, is there a right and a wrong way of doing anything?

I would say to that? Um, no, there isn’t, but whatever comes up that feels uncomfortable, unbearable, really grainy and scratchy use that, put that into the play, the creativity, make it part of the conversation. What if 

Pooky Knightsmith: really hard? I mean, is there anything that we should be kind of hiding or shielding our kids from.

Amanda Seyderhelm: I think probably hiding or shielding. So what you mean, but a little bit more about item Sheldon as the third you coming out. 

Pooky Knightsmith: So for example, I am, um, working with a child and, uh, daddy has died and I know that daddy has died because mommy murdered daddy. Is that something that the child needs to know? 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Mm Hmm.

Well, at some point, yes, the child is going to need to know that, um, it took you on, I think in terms of shielding and hiding. I think the more we hide, the more secrets we create, the lack of trust starts to creep in very quickly. Um, and that bothers me because. I can, I spend a lot of time with secrets, you know, being witness if you like to the fallout from those secrets.

So I would, my tendency is to always say, be as truthful as you can, but always test that what you’re about to say or share isn’t going to cause harm to a child. See, there’s a level of honesty that I think always has to be present. But if you think that honesty is, is going to cause, um, harm, then, then don’t.

Yeah, but don’t hide. I think the hiding is something that I think always comes back to bite really. 

Pooky Knightsmith: I guess because a child who yeah, in that, like that example I shared, or if someone has died by suicide, for example, that that is a truth. That’s not going to go away, I guess isn’t it. And if they 

Amanda Seyderhelm: have 

Pooky Knightsmith: the chance to explore it safely, they will, I, I guess still learn this at some point somehow, maybe when they’re not in such a safe situation.

Amanda Seyderhelm: Yeah. That’s a good example because I, I know, um, of a family who are very young family actually, and as in the parents were in their twenties and the father, um, committed suicide, uh, he hanged himself and, uh, the daughter was two at the time. Now in that situation, she was clearly too young to share that information with it was it wasn’t appropriate for her to know that.

But what is, I think important is to not hide, um, hide those facts from her. Forever, you know, at some point that needs to be a conversation. So I think it’s about finding the appropriate time to, to have the open and honest conversation. And I think to make that as child-friendly as possible. So again, just dipping into a, you know, a toolkit or a, um, something that’s child friendly so that you can start to just start to have the conversation.

You don’t have to have the whole conversation. It’s just a little bit at a time. Um, See where it see where it goes and move that naturally 

Pooky Knightsmith: come up at some point. So in the example where the child or young, I mean, will they just start asking questions or do we, 

Amanda Seyderhelm: I think they will start asking questions and it’s, you know, where’s daddy, as soon as that, um, becomes very real for them in that they cannot, and of course they will be feeling that loss and that absence before that.

So that’s another piece to bear in mind of how, how we talk about that loss because the child will be picking it up. But as soon as yes, there is a way why and I go to daddy, you know, where’s my daddy, that’s the time to start having the conversation. And does this look 

Pooky Knightsmith: different for children with, um, special or additional needs?

Amanda Seyderhelm: Yes and no. Um, I was just, I was being, I’ve been thinking a lot about that, that particular question actually. And I think I’ve had children with special needs in my, in my practice. Who’ve um, I’m just thinking of one particular little boy actually, whose dad, um, was killed very suddenly. Uh, they went on holiday and, um, he had a car accident and the next day he wasn’t there.

Um, and actually for this particular child, what was very helpful, uh, was having safety of not talking about it directly for quite a long time. Um, that I noticed that that. Was w that, that was the difference. I think what I’m trying to say there was, there was a difference there. He didn’t want to talk about it directly for quite a long time, um, needed that safety of cover of play of the, of the tools.

Um, and it was only actually towards the end of his therapy that he, he did want to talk about it and didn’t mention his dad. So, yes, I think, I think it is, it is, it is different, slightly different. And was that 

Pooky Knightsmith: just about the dot process? Just maybe took a little bit longer or the, what do you think was going on for that 

Amanda Seyderhelm: child?

Um, I think every, all children are different there, isn’t sort of a, you know, a one, one size fits all, but I think in his particular case, um, his mother. Uh, was Chinese and his father, um, was Irish and there was a, there was a very challenging cultural, uh, conflict going on with both with both sort of families.

And I think that made it doubly difficult for him to locate him after his dad died. Um, he somehow found it almost, there was a double loss there. He did not just lost his dad. He lost access to his, his other family, part of his family. Um, but yeah, he, and yet he was also a child. I remember who wrote fascinatingly, a lot of stories using my, I use a little template, um, divide the page up into six blocks and he filled those blocks out every week.

There was a new story. So a lot of useful data there in terms of. That was what he, he needed to, to process. Yeah. You, you, 

Pooky Knightsmith: it must be hard doing what you do. You’re, you’re working with people in these hardest moments. It’s does it, I mean, why do you do it? What, what inspired you to do 

Amanda Seyderhelm: this? Um, I taught a painting class at, uh, primary school.

Um, it was a classical, what color is your rainbow? And I went into this group of children and, um, they all painted rainbows. And what struck me afterwards was how they’re all completely completely different. There wasn’t a single rainbow that looked like nothing. Actually, there were no obvious rainbows.

That was the first thing that I noticed. And the second thing was that we had a gallery, we had like a little exhibition of these paintings on the floor, and I imagined that each child would just sort of say, well, that’s my, that’s my rainbow. But actually what came out was. A flood of stories about their own personal lives.

And there was one child whose rainbow was a wardrobe. And I said, well, tell me, tell me about your wardrobe. And he then described, uh, in some detail, you know, how he’d been shot in a cupboard, um, at home and couldn’t get out. Um, so I, I came away thinking, goodness, you know, this is a very powerful medium for self-expression.

And when I reported back to the, um, the head teacher, she said, we have not, we’ve not had anything like this in the school. And it was really the recognition that children, if you give them the right mediums, if you give them access, they do communicate how they feel. And it was that my thought, I want to do this professionally.

I want to learn how to do this. Um, you know, to, to help as many children as I can use their voice. I think it was maybe the element of the voices were that the stories were there, they just didn’t have a way out. Um, yeah, they didn’t have, they didn’t have an outlet. And once I saw that, I saw the potential and thought, right.

It’s uh, I’m going to retrain, so I did. Wow. So it’s 

Pooky Knightsmith: all about finding a way for a child to find their voice. 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Yes. Yes. I, I’d grown up. I’d spent 12 years of my life living, um, in Africa and I’d witnessed a lot of, obviously a lot of racism and oppression and, uh, what struck me and what I had to learn to do myself was to find my voice.

And I saw how damaging it was to not have a voice and to feel disempowered from. Having a voice. And I think that early experience really stayed with me and yeah, it made, it made a huge impact. I thought I don’t, yeah. Don’t want to carry that around. So I think that was also an early influence for me about find power and voice.

Yeah. How 

Pooky Knightsmith: you, so do you use yourself kind of, or other kind of creative means for expressing how you feel or is that something, something that you do in your own life as well as in your kind of professional life? 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Uh, yes, I paint. So painting is my thing. Uh, I find writing is great for, um, expressing certain things.

Um, but actually the engine for me is the juice comes from the creative output. So, uh, painting has always been something I’ve I’ve. I’ve done. Um, not, I would say to create any particular great work thought, but it’s more about the expressive nature of it. I get to sort of bypass the loss of my intellectual brain, uh, and, and then that’s become, I become playful, I suppose.

That’s, that’s how I play in the, some perks is, is in the paint box and get messy, get very, very messy. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I said, you know, pour paint into paint jars. And, uh, I do that with children as well, you know, pour it on the ground and have, uh, have a, uh, big covering on the floor and do that because it’s, it’s tactile.

It’s, it’s how we connect. I think with the soulful aspects, you know, the, the really. The wounds that we have that we’ll have, uh, that we carry around. And I think touching those all the time is what yeah. Keeps it, keeps it real. So it’s 

Pooky Knightsmith: about the process though, the painting, as in the process of painting or making or creating rather than what you create?

Amanda Seyderhelm: Yes. It’s the check is what I call the check-in. So it’s the checking in with myself? Um, I don’t mean the, the ego part of me, but the, the sort of more soulful, uh, part of my, myself, where I may be carrying those grainy, um, unbearable bits and that those need to be expressed. Um, and I think I’ve seen, I’ve seen families.

Do you do that as well? Do that kind of work. Um, and it’s a very connecting experience. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. Adults. They can’t sit who haven’t maybe been used to expressing themselves creatively. And often when I suggest to people the use of any form of creative activity, really, then they say, well, they don’t know how well they’re not very good at it.

Or, you know, you get a lot of barriers in the way, don’t you? I mean, what would 

Amanda Seyderhelm: you, yeah. Um, I just, I just say, give it a try, give it a try, keep it as simple. Keep it as simple as possible. I think very often, I don’t know whether you find this, but when people are confronted by a blank page or you just say, well, here’s a box of crayons.

They go, I’m not going to do that. You know, because I don’t want you to see how terrible I am at drawing. Um, so I might go first, I might say, well, you know, why don’t we have a go together? Um, And that can, that can often be, I mean, do you, is it something you, you say you use that in your work as well? I often suggest creative too.

Pooky Knightsmith: I do. I encourage any form of creativity just because I think that it can be so powerful. And like he said, really, I think it’s, it’s a shortcut. So for me actually, I, I use poetry a lot, so I encourage people to use poetry and that’s because it’s something I found personally really powerful. Um, but I’m, I wouldn’t, you know, I’ve written hundreds of poems and written a book about using poetry, but I wouldn’t say I’m a good poet.

I just find it a great medium, you know, and I think in, in a way actually encouraging people to write really bad poetry, like really? Yeah. And also sometimes I think. About all the people’s interpretation of what you’ve done, whether that’s something you’ve, you’ve drawn or written or otherwise created.

It’s interesting to see what other people see in it sometimes I think, and that can be an interesting part of the process

Amanda Seyderhelm: too. That that is you’re right. That’s fascinating. And actually when someone’s drawn something to hold it up and say, actually what you see or what they see and get that noticing going on of, wow.

I hadn’t noticed there was something like that in there can be very powerful. Yeah. I love that idea of writing bad poetry. I might have to use that. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah, I’ll send you, I’ll send you my poetry book and it’s got loads of prompts. So should you wish to write your own bad poetry? Then I had some questions in via Twitter from various people who, who wanted to pick your brains.

So I don’t get to ask all the questions. Are you happy for me to do a bit of a quick fire with you on. 

Amanda Seyderhelm: So, 

Pooky Knightsmith: first of all, um, any advice to children aged seven to 11 who become fixated on death to the point that it’s the main topic of conversation and they’re convinced everyone or everything is going to die soon.

Amanda Seyderhelm: Yes, that’s, that’s, that’s about fear of losing, uh, the person closest to you, separation anxiety. And I would say the key there is the how to move the conversation away from, from death is, is to through comfort is through reassurance is through a ritual, create a ritual that you can do, uh, every day, um, with that child, uh, because it’s really, they’re just expressing a fear of losing of losing you.

Um, you mentioned 

Pooky Knightsmith: rituals a few times. What does 

Amanda Seyderhelm: a ritual can be? Anything from, um, Reading story together to going for a walk. I know some children who that, and they don’t have to do it with both parents. If both parents are there, it can be, or brother or sister go for a walk together. Um, play a game, play a puzzle.

Um, not watching TV, not on the iPad, get away from the technology. Um, it can be making pancakes together. Uh, I’ve got a great recipe for banana banana pancakes that I share a lot. And that is something that’s fun that has an outcome that’s contained in a time limit, and that can be enjoyed together at the end of it that they can eat it together.

Um, so there’s got to be a fun element to it as well as something that’s quite boundaried with time. Yep. Okay. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And it’s something that you would do many times and routine or ritual rather, or you’d do at 

Amanda Seyderhelm: once or. Oh, I think, I think because you build it, build it as a, as a ritual. So Friday afternoon, we’re going to make pancakes together.

And actually you could then extend that and say, I’d like you to come up with a, with a recipe for pancakes. Is there anything you’d particularly like to make? Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And I’m just wondering here, um, about. Just applying for my own. Uh, when my, my therapist said to me one time long time ago, I was, I struggled with Christmas historically a lot.

And I remember him saying, you’ve got your own family now, and you need to create your own rituals around Christmas. So rather getting than getting hung up on all the things that you worry about the past it’s time to create new ones, um, to almost like supplant the tricky stuff, I guess. And is that true when we’ve lost someone?

If there might be certain times when we would have been doing something with the person who’s died, for example, should we kind of try and find something else that we would do to almost replace that? Is that the right 

Amanda Seyderhelm: thing to do? I think, um, yes, in a way, but I think what needs to happen before there needs to be a little bridge from the old ritual to the new one.

And that’s usually when people use things like memory boxes, um, and create albums of pictures, they go through lots of pictures and. It’s almost like they need to put that part of the story of that person away and have something real that they can show for it before they can go and build a new ritual over there.

Yeah. Um, so if the, maybe the ritual was always about taking a walk together and maybe you can take that walk together and plant a little tree somewhere so that you’ve got that space that you can always go back to maybe have a picnic, something like that. Um, You don’t, I wouldn’t suggest going straight to the new ritual, cause that might be a little bit jarring.

So almost close that chapter first before you then open another one. That makes sense. That makes 

Pooky Knightsmith: a lot of sense. Um, Oh, this is a tough one. My daughter’s best friend’s mum died by suicide in December. If I’m slightly sad or upset, my daughter is convinced I’m going to do the same. I’ve talked to her about the difference between sadness and mental illness and reassured her.

But do you have any of that? Nice. 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Oh, that is really tough. Um, I think it’s very similar to all the different circumstances, but as similar response to the first question it’s about providing just absolutely tons of reassurance, um, until the, the child starts to feel safer and we do that through, um, Partly through ritual, but partly through reflection as well.

Just reflecting back, I hear you. I hear you’re sad. I hear that you’re that you’re angry that you’re anxious, that you’re feeling lonely. Um, and you know, ultimately we can’t fix this. We can’t give the, um, the unqualified assurance sometimes, which is what children want. All we can do is say, I’m here for you.

I hear you. I understand. And sometimes that, that is enough to hold the unbearable part of, uh, in this particular case, uh, suicide, which has its own particular. Um,

the grief that goes with suicide is quite unique, actually. Um, yeah. Because so hard. Yeah, 

Pooky Knightsmith: absolutely. And I think that’s, that’s hard. Children do generalize don’t they, in that way. And the idea here that, because my best friend’s mum died by suicide. That if my mom feels sad, maybe she’ll do that. Or you see at other times, don’t you where, well, um, perhaps a child suffers a couple of losses in quick succession, and then therefore they worry that everybody will relieve them or die.

And that can be very hard. 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Can’t it? It can, I would recommend giving that child a, buying them a, a drawing book that’s filled with empty pages and sitting with them and doing that drawing check-in and encourage them to do it every single day. That that’s part. Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Because it’s like, um, it’s like a cycle, you know, it, it will eventually, um, where it’s wear itself out to the point where they will.

Finish the end of the book and go, right. Okay. That’s, that’s sort of done. They need space to work something out, work that fear through, um, talking about it. Isn’t always the best, the best way. Just hear it. I hear you. Hey, you’re scared we can do this together and actually sit and do it with them, do a drawing together and then close the book.

Okay. We’re going to put that to one side and come back to it tomorrow. I see. So there’s a 

Pooky Knightsmith: time and a space for it, but actually yes, it’d be in all of our life, 

Amanda Seyderhelm: all of the homes. It can’t be because otherwise it will become all consuming. And I think if you don’t give children that, that thing, whatever that thing is, then it will spill out and become.

The topic of conversation at every meal time at every bedtime, because really what they want you to do is to hear them is to say, I’ve got this. Yeah, I’ve got this. So the book functions as that sort of container. Yeah. Yeah. That makes, um, that makes really good sense. Yeah. And, and then as I say, it started off with, we’re going to do this together.

In fact, mommy is also going to have her own drawing book and I’m going to do it with you and you sit down together and you do the drawings in your own books, and then you close it. And that’s when the puddle jumping happens, it’ll be okay. Yep. Done that. Now I can go off and use some energy to run around the garden or, uh, play a game or do something and do something different.

Knowing that they’re going to return to the book, the following day, the book, because actually the book functions as a safety object, it’s a transitional object for them. So the person who’s died has gone. What is coming in its place is this transitional object, which then they can use, um, until they’re ready to close that book and move on and you may need to feel sorry.

No, no, they may need to have more, more than one book. 

Pooky Knightsmith: I was just gonna say, do they, do you talk to them about what they draw or do you just let them draw and then let it go. 

Amanda Seyderhelm: I tend to say, to give them the opportunity to talk about the drawing. Yes. And I think you can tune in, use your intuition here.

You’ll know pretty quickly whether they want to go there or not. Sometimes I’ve tried that. And then I’ve been met with I’m closing the book. Now you don’t even get the chance because the child’s closed the book. They know they don’t want to do that. But I would just ask the question, you know, say, gosh, that looks very interesting.

Would you like to tell me about what’s in there today? What have you drawn to them? Would you like to talk about what you’ve drawn today? 

Pooky Knightsmith: If they shut the book, we respect that. 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Yeah, we do. And we know we’ll 

Pooky Knightsmith: come back to it tomorrow, so many, 

Amanda Seyderhelm: and that’s the great thing to end with. You know, we’re closing the book for now.

We’re putting the books away and we’ll come back to them tomorrow and we’ll open it again tomorrow. And that opening and closing is an important. Learning. I think the children in being able to access the opening and closing of their own grief in that it doesn’t have to be completely open all the time because that’s exhausting.

Grief is, I mean, I don’t know about you, but I know when I’ve been grieving, it’s physically exhausting to do it. Um, you can’t do it all the time. Um, that gives everybody a bit of a break. Yeah. Does that make sense? 

Pooky Knightsmith: It does. It makes perfect sense. Absolutely. And I think maybe there’s times when we need to revisit that more, aren’t they, when we’re coming up to kind of anniversaries or milestones or, or that kind of thing, perhaps that’s when we get the book back out, if even if we haven’t for a while.

Um, there’s a great question here. Big question. It might be a whole, whole nother chat, but, um, very topical right now. What is your advice about teaching about loss and bereavement, including coping strategies, um, to children as whole classes by a PSHE or choose a time that will that’ll be on a lot of people’s minds as they prepare for the return to September in both primary and 

Amanda Seyderhelm: secondary.

I think that that is a whole other chat contained chatter itself, but I think I would. I would suggest that’s the point at which to, uh, teach the, the framework, you know, give, give the framework and the context, uh, you know, last change builds resolution and resilience. I think that that would be helpful for, um, for teachers to understand for themselves and to apply that to themselves, they are kept safe and, uh, supported, um, as they go into, um, you know, trusting of children where there’s going to be a lot of loss and grief.

Um, and, and again, to, yeah, teach, teach therapeutic storytelling. That’s so important, but just the little ones, I mean, would you use it? I would, yeah. There is a way to use it in secondary. Um, you would just change the story. Okay. I’ve seen that taught. In secondary schools, um, where the questions are more interactive and more dynamic and focused around asking something direct.

Like, so what do you see as the obstacle in this story? Can you relate that obstacle to yourself? And if so, in what way? What would you like the outcome to be? So you would very much have a direct approach with a, with an, a teenage or a, an, you know, an older audience, whereas with a younger group, it’s, it’s all about the metaphor.

Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And do you think it’s important that this is on our curriculums as we go back 

Amanda Seyderhelm: or? I do. I think it should be part of the, the transition and the return, um, that this is that yeah. Given, given, given equal time, uh, for children to, to have, to be able to process in a language that they understand. Yeah.

Yeah, it was me that they gained to be pushed back too soon into learning. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah, that worries me too. And I think some of what you’ve talked about, how we manage to learn and contain, um, and know that, you know, there are times when the book is kind of literally or metaphorically open and times when it’s shut learning to do that, whether that’s because we’ve had, um, uh, you know, uh, a death or loss of some kind or whether it’s just that we’ve got quite a lot going on in our heads right now.

And we need to know when we can have time for that worry. And when not, I think that’s going to be quite an important part of the process of getting ready for learning. Isn’t it, 

Amanda Seyderhelm: it isn’t, I, I read somewhere this morning that, you know, there are, there are some children who actually, they do want to get back to learning.

They don’t want to be talking about the difficult experiences that they’ve had in lockdown, which to me says. Does even more of a need for that. I was going to say, 

Pooky Knightsmith: that’s what it says to me as well. That’s like, okay, this kid really needs to talk about this. Yeah, 

Amanda Seyderhelm: exactly. Because it’s, that is going underground and we don’t want that.

So, yeah. Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: I mean, and, and we, we, we all do that. Don’t we, I mean, my, uh, my best friend, Jerry texted me last night. I’m really struggling with my anxiety at the moment. My best friend, Joe takes me last night, going, how are you? And I replied fine. Anyone you want to talk about it? Yeah. That’s what we do.

But yeah. So what, what, yeah, I mean, we I’m aware of time and we need to, we need to, to jaws to a place, but what do you think of the right things? You know, I work with lots and lots and lots of people who are really worried about how the wider return to school is going to go and what they need to do for the children.

What are the most important things they can be doing? Do you 

Amanda Seyderhelm: think? So three things, the three R’s ritual build a ritual. Uh, time, uh, reading reflection, ritual, reading, and reflection. They do those three things within a open and closed book environment. Um, there is a chance that the children will feel a sense of containment and safety, uh, and, uh, and we’ll have a way of, uh, space to express how they feel, um, and full reading you could put in.

Um, it doesn’t have to be reading. It needs to be a, uh, medium of, of play or creativity. That’s in the child’s language that they understand. Yeah. I happen to think that reading is a great. An accessible tool to use in a school in this context for, for unpacking what I call the invisible backpack, you know, the invisible backpack of worries and anxieties and stresses, um, because it’s a framework that can be used easily and also means that that teachers and, uh, assistants don’t have to invent the wheel all the time.

I mean, there are, there’s tons as you know, of exercises in my book about things that can be done in the classroom environment and outside of it. And that those are all really useful. Um, but I think if you want something that’s, that’s quicker. That’s quick. It reading, reading a short little book is always going to be something you can grab off the shelf and just take that child aside and spend that 15 minutes with them and use reflection during that time.

Pooky Knightsmith: And you’re working on a new resource at the moment, aren’t you? That was how this conversation got triggered. So tell us about 

Amanda Seyderhelm: that. Yes. So the, the, uh, the how to talk to children about grief and loss is, um, is a course I’m, uh, creating for online training purposes for online learning. So the book itself can be used.

Uh, obviously you can, you can use the exercises, but I wanted to do something that was going to probably be video based, partly as well. And we’ll have downloads with worksheets and the exercises that are interactive so that teachers can do that, um, online and learn that online, uh, because they, I think COVID has shown us that, that we need to have a very strong community sense of community when we’re talking about this.

So I think, yeah, how to talk to children about grief and loss will be, we’ll be an online learning resource as well. Yeah. So 

Pooky Knightsmith: we’ll watch this space and look forward to sharing that in the, in the near future. What thought would you like to leave everyone with Amanda? 

Amanda Seyderhelm: Um, uh, thought of hopefulness. Really? I think that, um, grief and loss can be very heavy to talk about, um, serious, serious subject.

I think that within every grief with, within any grief story, there is some kind of lesson or speck of hope. And I think it’s about finding that, that continue what I call a continuing bond with yourself and with the person who you’ve lost and it’s about finding that sense of connection. So I would hope yes.

That through doing this kind of work, um, having these conversations, um, that. We, we can stay connected to ourselves. Cause that’s how we, we stay in process things. .