education, Guest Post, resources, special education, special needs, Wellbeing

Let’s Talk About Grief

Let’s Talk About Grief

No one likes to think about death, let alone talk about it and who feels comfortable talking to children about death?! Being blessed with life means that we also have to cope with others dying and manage the associated emotions of grief. 2020 has sadly meant that we have all had to think about death more.

We already teach children about so many feelings – what happiness, sadness and anger are, how they make us feel and how to manage these emotions. Now it is time to ensure we do the same for grief. 

One way that we can do this is through play, yes play.

A child’s natural way of learning is through play and exploration. Children learn about all aspects of life through play: shopping, cooking, going to the doctors etc.  What about if we applied the concept of play to learning about the other aspects of life – death.

Can we provide children with a way to explore their experiences of death, bereavement and grief through play?

Good Grief Toys ® is a new and unique resource which allows children to learn about difficult situations and process their associated emotions through play.

good grief toys set

What are Good Grief Toys?

Good Grief Toys is a set of 45 multipurpose wooden pieces, including people, vehicles, animals and furniture (that can represent a home, hospital, church etc.) Each wooden piece can be used in a versatile manner to represent an infinite number of situations. These include visiting Granny in hospital, being told that Granny has died, preparing for a funeral, attending a funeral, returning to school after a bereavement, the possible scenarios are endless.

play set for discussing bereavement autism children

Why do we need such a resource?

  • To support children to understand what has happen and why.
  • Prepare children for what will happen in the future. 
  • To further help the families that you work with. (It is a resource that a Family Support Worker can use with families and lend to them).
  • For many of the children that you work with this will probably be the first bereavement that they’ve experienced and the first funeral that they will attend. Good Grief Toys allows you to better support children at this difficult time.

Providing children with engaging toys to explore difficult scenarios through play.

 Providing adults with the tools to help start tough conversations and explain difficult situations.

This toy set has been designed to support children with all forms of grief (not just grief related to death).

Scenarios that children can explore with Good Grief Toys:

  • illness/death at home
  • visiting someone in hospital
  • illness/death in hospital
  • visiting someone in a hospice
  • illness/death in a hospice
  • illness/death of a pet
  • attending a funeral/memorial service
  • returning to school after a bereavement
  • road traffic accident
  • fire at home
  • domestic incident 
  • parents separating/divorcing
  • visiting parents in different homes/places
  • moving into a foster/care home
  • attending respite care
  • grief related to friends or family members moving away
  • grief related to having to move school
  • a child learning about their Special Educational Needs/Disability and coming to terms with possible associated grief
Grief and bereavement playset

Other uses

Adults can use these toys to help:

  • support difficult conversations.
  • provide information about something new/different that is going to take place.
  • teach new routines or behaviours.

* This list is in no way exhaustive. You can explore an infinite number of scenarios.

How do organisations working with children use Good Grief Toys?

  • As a resource that:
    • is available in your school/centre etc. for children to explore.
    • staff and family members to use to help explain to children what has happened and what is going to happen.
    • you can lend to families.

How to use Good Grief Toys

  • A  member of staff or family member can use Good Grief Toys with a child/ren to help deliver information, explain what has happened, or what is going to happen. 
  • An individual child can explore the toys through ‘free play’ – allowing them to delve into what has happened, process their emotions and to help them prepare for what is going to take place, the funeral, cremation, burial etc.
  • Good Grief Toys are simple and easy to use. Just open the box and start playing.
  • You do not need to be a counsellor or therapist to use Good Grief Toys, you just need to have empathy and understanding for what the child is experiencing. Good Grief Toys provides you and the child with the tools needed to explore the difficult concepts and emotions around death, through play.
  • Play is a child’s natural way to make sense of the world. Good Grief Toys enables children to learn about death, bereavement and grief in a manner that they are familiar and comfortable with – play.

Making sure you get the best out of Good Grief Toys 

All schools have bought a great resource that only one member of staff has the confidence to use. To ensure that you get the very most out of your purchase every toy set comes with free support from BackPocketTeacher

With every purchase of Good Grief Toys BackPocketTeacher provides you with a package of free advice, training and support – to ensure you get the very most out of your toys.

You will receive 3 hours of remote support and training (which can be used at anytime during the 12 months after the purchase of Good Grief Toys). You choose how and when you use your time. Below are some ideas:

  • to deliver online training with staff on how to use Good Grief Toys 
  • provide advice and training on how to best support bereaved children
  • to provide advice and training on how to best support bereaved children with learning disabilities
good grief toys play set vehicles

Information about Good Grief Toys

This toy set has been 100% designed and created in the UK. 

Good Grief Toys is a made up of 45 handcrafted wooden toys. Each set has been handmade by an amazing independent UK toy maker.

Good Grief Toys are CE marked and meet all of the UK and EU toy safety standards as set out in the Toy (Safety) Regulations 2011 – specifically European standard EN 71 which covers all safety requirements for toys. Compliance with this standard is a legal requirement for all toys sold in the European Union. Good Grief Toys are made from sustainable wood and painted with non-toxic paint.

This toy set is not appropriate for children under 3 years of age due to it containing some small parts which are a choke risk.

About Sarah Helton

Sarah has worked in the Special Educational Needs/Disabilities (SEND) field for nearly 25 years and has an outstanding track record in a diverse range of roles (Deputy Head, Assistant Head, Teacher, Local Authority Education Officer and Educational Publisher). 

Having worked with many pupils who had been bereaved and sadly experiencing the deaths of pupils that she taught she developed an immense interest in how we can better support bereaved and grieving children. Sarah now works as BackPocketTeacher – an author, trainer and consultant in the field of child bereavement, specialising in the (sadly often overlooked) needs of bereaved children with SEND.  

In autumn 2020 Sarah began studying for a PhD alongside her work as BackPocketTeacher. She is researching bereavement and SEND.

She also works as a training facilitator for the national bereavement charities Winston’s Wish and Child Bereavement UK.

Follow Sarah’s work and research on her website and social media accounts

Facebook @BackPocketTeacher

Twitter @BackPocketTeach


Sarah is currently fundraising to provide 10 UK bereavement charities and 10 UK schools to have a set of Good Grief Toys. This toy set provides children with engaging toys to explore difficult scenarios through play and gives adults the tools to help start tough conversations and explain difficult situations.

Schools that will receive a set of Good Grief Toys: Mountjoy School, Beaminster, St Nicholas School, Chippenham, Baytree School, Weston-Super-Mare, New Fosseway School, Bristol 1 more to be announced soon.

Charities that will receive a set of Good Grief Toys: Winston’s Wish, Bodie Hodges Foundation, Pamis (Promoting a more inclusive society) 2 more to be announced soon.

And you get to choose 5 more schools and 5 more charities to receive a set 

of Good Grief Toys. Just type the name of the school or charity that you 

would like to nominate in the message box after you donate.

Backpocketteacher bereavement logo

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