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A Story about Loss & Bereavement

Nobody will be surprised to learn that many young people who attend our provision are trying to come to terms with some form of bereavement or loss .

Some may have lost a parent or primary carer, been separated from siblings or other significant individuals in their lives.

Tragically, others may have had friends or people they know who have lost their lives at a young age, due to drug or gang related issues, or those who simply have gone missing for days or weeks and their whereabouts are unknown.

The ways that young people cope with such loss in their life can vary. Some become withdrawn, non-communicative and refuse to speak about the loss or the impact that has on them. Others become angry, aggressive and on occasions violent . Most feel unable to trust, or reluctant to form emotional attachments with those who step in to offer support EG Foster cares or care home staff.

Likewise, professionals and agencies can find engagement with children who have suffered such loss, very difficult and sometimes impossible.

Due to their vulnerabilities, on occasions, children will form relationships and attachments with inappropriate adults or people purporting to be their friends. The child might believe these individuals can offer them some form of physical protection from harm. They might offer drugs or alcohol which temporarily numbs the child’s pain if they aren’t able to cope with the sense of loss.

These individuals groom and control young people, resulting in them being exploited and entering into a cycle of behaviour that feels impossible to break and ultimately leads to longer term harm or worse.

How can Stable and Wild help?

Young people who have experienced this cycle of loss or bereavement will often be referred to us as they are unable to be supported or kept safe in a traditional educational environment.

As most of you know, we use the animals as a metaphor for life and we all know that animals, just like people get sick and are in risky situations that put them in danger or ultimately result in them losing their lives.

4 weeks ago at our centre, the fox got in with our chickens one evening. Foxes are clever and cunning ( just like some people are ) and they are very patient in waiting for an opportunity to strike.

The devastation caused by the fox resulted in only 1 chicken surviving and the rest of those in her coup being taken.

These chickens are part of the Stable and Wild community, many have featured in our social media and many more have helped young people in immeasurable ways. Building trust, friendships, learning how to care for them and helping to self regulate or calm emotions as well as providing sensory support for those who need that, our chickens are a blend of different breeds and characteristics.

Breaking the news to young people who have formed these relationships is something that has had to be handled very carefully and can result in a child revisiting a past trauma and all of that has to be dealt with in a professionally sensitive way.

What has emerged however has been so many conversations about loss. It has opened up channels of communication that for some children they have never been able to safely explore.

Conversations about loss, the emotions attached to that and ways to work through those emotions in a way that feels right for that young person.

Through these conversations there has been much praise from young people about the respect we have shown in sharing the news and also the chance to mark this loss and sometimes their very own personal losses with some form of mark of remembrance.

Some have drawn pictures for us to display and to keep.

Some have expressed concern for the 1 remaining chicken being left alone,…. How does this chicken feel? how will it cope? What impact will this have on it in the future? This is a situation that young people themselves can relate to and their insight into how they could support the chicken has been an insight into their own experiences and the things that can help them too.

Others have shared their own experiences within their own groups, which has resulted in peer on peer support and a general opening up of different life experiences.

On this day of remembrance it feels an appropriate time to share this story and consider how relationships with animals can bring great joy, but also pain when we lose them.

Death and loss are a part of life. We all get to experience that at some point and it is the price we pay for caring and loving others. Understanding this and finding a way to share those emotions is just another part of our journey of survival. Recognising, accepting and commemorating this in some way helps us all to move forwards with our own lives in a more accepting and resilient way.


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