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We Don’t Talk About Loss Anymore?

We don’t talk about Loss anymore?

We must recover the loss of Loss from the Residential Child Care vocabulary

The moment of experiencing Loss is painful. That moment can go on for a long while. Our whole world collapses, everything can suddenly have new meaning.

Loss is when something of significance is unexpectedly withdrawn. The children’s care system currently involves a lot of making and breaking of attachments. As the Children’s Commissioner annual reports show stability is not experienced by the continually rising numbers of children who have 3 or more, or 5 or more, placements in a year.

Separation, Loss and Attachment used to be a significant trio. Check out the Care Review final report, they are barely mentioned.

It is not discernible if this is a conscious nor unconcious omission.

Making sense of stability and resilience without the significant trio being mentioned is occupying NCERCC thinking. They seem to have been lost from the vocabulary.

Putting Loss back in the vocabulary and into Residential Child Care practice. 

Practice – read as a group Vera Fahlberg Chapter 3 Separation and Loss in the BAAF boom (1991) A child’s journey through placement. Here is useful theory, practice, examples.

Practice – NCERCC has a practice document regarding Grieving useful for the making and ending of placements. Commonly, placement making ‘heads on beds, one out one in’ approaches do not take grieving into account. Reflecting on this should be an uppermost concern.  Grieving takes as long as it takes, certainly 28 days and often months. It is necessary to be planned for, for the child, the key worker, the group of children, the staff group.

Separation involves fear which needs to be managed.

Loss involves grief that needs to be expressed.

Having an appropriate explanation helps. What might that mean in practice?

We need to accompany the child, not questioning or interpreting, but assisting in the processing of feelings, holding despair, surviving these moments and wanting to move on.

  • Do we give permission to feel the loss, pain, sadness?
  • How is the child experiencing the powerlessness and helplessness?
  • Do we enable the communication of Loss verbally and symbolically?
  • Do we help the child move on by creating with them something which is satisfying?
  • Are we providing consistency, reliability and continuity to recognise the panic that is felt and to safely contain it?
  • Recovery is at the pace of the child.
  • Do we have someone to look after us too? We need to be unshakeable. To do so we need someone to ‘hold’ us too, we are vulnerable when experiencing a child’s distress. We need to be able to think about the child and respond to them in helpful ways not with an immediate emotional reaction based on our personal feelings, attitudes and assumptions

Two important things to consider in the making of placements and a commissioning strategy

  1. How does a child coming straight in allow for grieving?


  1. Consider that ‘honeymoon period’ might not be what you think?

Grief is the process by which we pass in order to recover from Loss. There is a Grieving process

Shock/Disbelief – Denial – Anger – Bargaining – Sadness/Despair – Resolution.

Add this thinking to what we know about Attachment and the child may be experiencing interruption of and competition of existing and this new attachment and as a result is in shock/disbelief compounded by the Loss and Grieving.

We must recover the loss of Loss from the Residential Child Care vocabulary