The family is likely to need a lot of reassurance and support and you should be prepared to deal with the family’s grief which may manifest as guilt, anger, hysteria, sadness or even physical symptoms e.g. fainting when the child dies.
It is important to allow the family some time with their child’s body after the death. The family should be allowed to follow cultural practices regarding preparation of the body before it is taken away so that they have the opportunity to express their feelings and say goodbye. Ask the family if they want to take a lock of hair or hand and foot prints as part of memory making. Assist the family with the completing of the required documents, such as a notification of death form, as well as contacting the funeral parlour that will be collecting the body.
- Expedite the certification of death and completion of forms so that family members are not forced to wait in a public space while grieving.
- Debrief with family and provide information or explanations where requested. The family are trying to make sense of the illness and the death and clear explanations help in this task.
- Identify and support any cultural, religious, spiritual needs/requests around the burial of the body.
- The key element of bereavement support is compassionate listening, apart from providing clinical facts when asked. This is something the health care worker can do. Too often the bereaved are avoided because we do not know what to say. Offering condolences and listening is all that is required; and then, referral for bereavement care to the appropriate counsellors on the interdisciplinary team or with hospice.