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Peer-group support for bereaved children: a qualitative interview study

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Abstract

Background:  While it has been shown that bereaved children can experience emotional or behavioural problems, the evidence is inconclusive regarding which children would benefit from support and the kind of support to offer. This study aimed to obtain children’s and parents’ views on their experiences following bereavement and the usefulness of a peer-group support programme.

Method:  Thirty-nine families who had attended a community-based peer-group bereavement support programme within the previous 4 years were approached. Of the 23 with confirmed contact details, 17 agreed to participate. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 23 children (range 8 to 17 years) and 17 parents.

Results:  Children were concerned about isolation from peers and emphasized the value of meeting other children with experiences of bereavement in the group. Parents were concerned about lack of communication within the home about the bereavement, which continued after the group. Most children and parents would have liked more support, either more groups or an ongoing link.

Conclusions:  Referral to peer-group support may have the potential to improve bereaved children experiencing feelings of social isolation and help them develop coping strategies. Other family-focused support may also be needed for some children.

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