A new mobile game is aiming to help children process grief is being launched on Wednesday.
Apart of Me is targeted at youths who have lost a parent or sibling at a young age. It's been designed with the help of the bereaved and child psychologists.
Many children turn to social media, such as Instagram and Facebook, in order to grieve and app creator Louis Weinstock saw the potential for technology to be used to help bereaved children.
It is estimated that there is a child in every UK classroom has lost of parent or sibling.
A quarter of those who commit suicide under the age of 20 have experienced childhood bereavement, while 41% of youth offenders have also experienced loss.
Jamie, whose lost his dad to cancer when he was a teenager, helped design the game.
After his father's death, Jamie turned to drink, drugs and gangs as he tried to deal with his grief.
"I was always drunk, I was always finding ways to escape reality through drugs, through gangs," Jamie told ITV London.
"That support I had from my dad I was always looking for it and the only thing that was really there was gangs."
Jamie was temporarily excluded from school but found solace in online gaming and spoke to those he played with over the internet which became therapeutic.
Apart of Me is the first ever interactive tool that uses gaming technology to translate the best therapeutic techniques and practices for dealing with grief into a safe virtual space.
Based on evidence and feedback from young people it has been designed to help families develop emotional literacy and wisdom around death.
In the virtual world, the primary aim is to train young players up to become 'Guides', where they can then provide support through the game to other young people in distress.
Bounce Works explain the game thus: "On the virtual island, there is: a magical cave where young people can listen to 'stories of love and loss' from other bereaved young people from around the world, reducing the sense of isolation experienced following a bereavement; fireflies to be caught which teach about the different emotions associated with grief as well as evidence-based strategies to deal with them; a rockpool where young people can find some peace, listening to tailored mindfulness exercises; 'quests' that equip young people to have difficult conversations with loved ones; and bottles that wash up on the island containing 'grief wisdom' from real-world experts."
The game has already achieved some early success. The Guardian said it was one of the top 10 tech projects to look forward in 2018, was a finalist in the Pfizer Healthcare Hub awards and was a runner up in the Tech4Good awards.
If you need to explain a death to a child, the advice is different depending on their age.
Children's charity Barnardo's offer the following advice on how to discuss death with children.
- 0-2 Years
Children experience feelings of pain and loss.They will protest loudly and may search repeatedly for the deceased.They need a consistent routine, cuddles and hugs and they need to be told repeatedly that the person will not be returning. It is important that special memories and photographs are kept for the children as they grow older.
- 2-5 Years
Children at this stage think ‘literally’ so use of language is extremely important. Statements such as, ‘‘gone for a long sleep’’ and "we’ve lost him/her’’ can often cause confusion. They still do not understand the irreversibility of death and need to be told repeatedly that the dead cannot come back. At this age, children may believe that their actions can impact on the world around them and that, in some ways, they may have caused the death.
- 5-8 Years
Children can usually understand that death is irreversible and universal.They will ask frequent questions about death and may become preoccupied with thoughts of death.They may sometimes feel responsible for the surviving members and they need to be allowed to be children, not overwhelmed with adult responsibilities.It helps if the child can explore feelings of guilt and responsibility and that their questions are answered openly and honestly. It is important that they get support at school, as often children who are bereaved feel different.They often experience bullying at school because of this.They may have temper tantrums, sleep disturbance, nightmares, and also may act younger than their age.
- 8-12 Years
At this stage children usually understand that death is irreversible, universal and has a cause.Communication can become difficult and grief can be expressed in terms of physical aches and pains or challenging behaviour. They need the opportunity to talk to a trusted adult.They need reassurance about changes in lifestyle e.g. the money situation and whether they can remain in their house.Also they need support at school in dealing with peer groups and they may be more vulnerable to bullying
- 13-18 Years
Teenagers are particularly vulnerable as at this stage they try to solve problems themselves and find it difficult to seek help and support from adults. They understand the concept of death, but do not have the emotional maturity to deal with it. It is normal for adolescents to have difficulty talking to their parents, but they need the opportunity to talk to trusted adults or peers. School can provide security and routine, however, it can also be a place where they feel isolated, different and have difficulties with school work.They may feel overwhelmed by exams and coursework.Adolescents need choice with regard to the funeral and subsequent life changes.At the same time they should not be burdened with adult responsibilities, e.g. ‘’Be strong for your mother’’or ‘’You’re the man of the house now.’’