Grief And Bullying Behaviour
At The Diana Award, we define bullying behaviour as
‘Repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make others feel upset, uncomfortable or unsafe.’
YoungMinds defines grief as
‘An emotional response to loss and is a process rather than an event. It may affect how you feel physically, mentally and socially.’
Helpful Info on Grief and Bullying Behaviour
Unfortunately, grief is a process that everyone is likely to experience at some point in their life. However, this does not make it any less difficult or painful to deal with. Child Bereavement UK notes that 1 in 29 5–16-year-olds has been bereaved of a parent or sibling – which is almost a child in every average class. This emphasises how important it is to raise awareness of the ways that grief can impact the lives of young people, since it is something that a high number of young people in the UK are coping with.
Young people who are grieving can experience a wide range of emotions. These can include feeling anxious, frightened, sad, angry, irritable and numb (Young Minds). When writing for the Imagine website in 2016, Palmer notes that bullying behaviour can occur when people seek power; therefore, those grieving may be more susceptible to experience bullying behaviour, as they are in a more vulnerable state. For example, someone grieving may cry unexpectedly, which could result in teasing or name calling. Grief can also impact young people’s concentration levels and they are more likely to withdraw from school or social activities (Fauth, 2004). This could lead to increased levels of isolation and loneliness during a very difficult time.
How can I support my grieving friend?
As a friend supporting someone grieving, it is important to be able to recognise changes to your friend’s behaviour in order to then think about the best way to offer your support.
Our team at The Diana Award has come up with some top tips for someone supporting a friend who is grieving:
If you are new to this situation and have never experienced grief before, don’t worry! Your friend may not have either before now. Often, fear of saying the wrong thing can stop people reaching out to support a grieving friend. Letting your friend know that you are there for them for when they feel ready to talk about their grief is really important. Soif they aren’t ready to talk yet, let them that you will be there to listen whenever they are ready to talk.
- Take their lead
It is important to remember that grief is an individual process – some days someone might not want to discuss it at all but other days they might feel ready to. By asking questions such as ‘How are you feeling today?’ you will be able to gauge whether they feel comfortable discussing their grief. If they don’t, that is ok! It is not a reflection on you or your friendship. If they do confide in you, show that you appreciate them opening up by saying: ‘Thank you for talking to me about this.’
- Do the organising
It can be easy to assume that someone grieving might not want to socialise due to what they are going through but it is important to still make them aware of plans to ensure they do not feel excluded. Letting them know your specific plans whilst also reinforcing that it is completely fine if they do not feel up to coming is the best way to remind your friend they are still included. It also gives them the power to decide if they feel ready to socialise.
- Ask for help
If you are ever worried about your friend and feel they might need additional support, tell a trusted adult or teacher at your school. It is completely normal to feel helpless or unsure of what to do to help your friend in such a difficult situation. Recognising that a professional or trusted adult might be able to offer more support is a testament to how much you care for your friend and want to help them through this time.
What to do if you suspect someone who is grieving is experiencing bullying behaviour
Here at The Diana Award, we believe everyone should be an Upstander against bullying behaviour. An Upstander is someone who does their best to help, protect and support anybody who may be experiencing bullying behaviour.
There are many ways to be an Upstander and help those who may be experiencing bullying behaviour relating to grief
- If you feel safe, be an Upstander and explain to the person who is targeting your friend that their behaviour is unkind and that everyone should be supportive of someone experiencing grief. You could ask them how they would feel is someone displayed bullying behaviour towards them; by encouraging them to consider how their behaviour makes your friend feel, they may be less likely to repeat the behaviour in future.
- If you do not feel comfortable doing this, you can still be an Upstander by telling a trusted adult or teacher at your school about the bullying behaviour you witnessed.
- Reach out to your friend and let them know you are there to support them. You can make sure that they know how to access support from Anti-Bullying Ambassadors (if you have these in your school).Offer to go with them to tell a trusted adult about the bullying behaviour; we all need a little encouragement sometimes and they may find your presence helpful when speaking with teachers about the bullying behaviour.
- Consider if there are any opportunities to educate your peers about grief. You could speak to your teachers and, if you have one, your Anti-Bullying Ambassador team to plan an assembly or activities related to the broader topic of showing respect. Respect is about acting in a way that shows you care about other people’s feelings and this is particularly important when supporting those who are experiencing grief. You could research and deliver an assembly or workshop for your peers to increase awareness of how grief and bullying behaviour can impact young people.
The Diana Award Crisis Messenger – Provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think through the next step towards feeling better.
YoungMinds – The UK’s leading charity with information about mental health in young people.
Child Bereavement UK – A UK charity supporting families and children experiencing bereavement.
Check out our Support Centre for more helpful organisations.