A total of 250 teachers, police family liaison officers, social workers and associated care professionals attended two days of seminars held in a Croydon hotel, hosted free of charge by the Rowland Brothers Foundation, the charitable arm of the Croydon family firm of funeral directors Rowland Brothers.
The seminars were held as part of the national Dying Matters Awareness Week (13 – 19 May) organised by the National Council for Palliative Care.
The first day was devoted to generic issues of bereavement, under the leadership of the grief specialist Dr Bill Webster, from Canada. He covered the taboos surrounding death, offering and advice on the language used in this context.
The second day’s seminars were devoted to the grief suffered by bereaved children, and its impact in a school setting. The seminar leaders offered advice to teachers on how to recognise signs of grief in their pupils and offer appropriate care.
The leaders were Sheila Elliott, of Winston’s Wish charity, and Mary Clair Kelly, a psychotherapeutic counsellor who provides therapy for children from a variety of backgrounds in private practice and as a school counsellor at a state-run boarding school.
The event also launched a new initiative from the Rowland Brothers Foundation – a project whereby the foundation will send child bereavement specialists free of charge into any Croydon school which requests training in caring for bereaved children, or helping pupils cope with the death of one of their classmates.
The seminars, in accordance with the awareness week’s aims, also emphasised the need for everyone to take part in the ‘big conversation’ about the need to plan for one’s end of life – the need to have a will in place, to specify one’s funeral wishes and finance them where possible.
Both of this year’s seminars attracted audiences of social workers, care workers, clergy, voluntary church workers, bereavement counsellors, teachers and Family Liaison Officers from the Metropolitan police, their certificated attendance counting as part of their professional studies and training.
The seminars were introduced by Steve Rowland, managing director of the Rowland Brothers Foundation, one of three generations of his family still involved in the day-to-day running of the company.