5 October 2021

Books helping bereaved families in the emergency department

The emergency department at University Hospital Southampton is fast paced. It is where the sickest patients go for emergency treatment, and as a major trauma centre, it treats patients with multiple serious injuries as a result of accidents, sport or violence.

Sadly not all patients survive their injuries.

Southampton Hospitals Charity has funded a range of books dealing with death to help children understand what is going on. Rosanna Howes, Sister in the Children’s Emergency and Trauma Department (CETD) tells us more:

“The books that we give out go to siblings or family members of children that have died within the CETD, plus to children of adults that have died in the adult’s emergency department.

The books are useful for the whole family. It is something that the bereaved children are able to read themselves at home, but it can also be a useful tool to teach parents how to talk to children about death.

Depending on the circumstances, the adults themselves may not be ready, or comfortable to talk about what has happened, so reading a book can be an easier way of processing their experience.

These books are always offered to bereaved families, and even if they don’t use it for several months, it is there for when the child or family feels ready.

We stock a variety of different books for toddlers right through to teenagers. Titles include:

  • Always and Forever, by Debi Gliori and Alan Durant
  • Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine, by Diana Crossley
  • Let’s Talk About When Someone Dies, by Molly Potter
  • Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake
  • What Does Dead Mean?, by Caroline Jay and Jenni Thomas

The books aimed at younger children are set up like traditional bedtime stories that you would read to them in everyday situations. They don’t always directly focus on death but help explain feelings and emotions using animals and families.

We have interactive activity books aimed at ages 5-11 that help young people remember the person that has died in a positive way. It asks them to answer questions in the book such as what is your favourite thing about the person, draw a picture of what they looked like, etc.

The pre-teen books explain the process surrounding death and answers questions such as does death hurt, why do people die, and what happens after someone dies in an age-appropriate way.

Most of the teenage books explore self help and the emotions surrounding bereavement. These do not necessarily just explore death, so can be used for children whose parents have a life changing injury or were admitted to any of our intensive care units.

It is only through Charity support, that we can encourage families to use these books to guide children gently through the subject of death and dying. It can be such a difficult and confusing time, which is why these books are so important.”

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