Series two, episode 16: Rachel Fearnley

Updated: Apr 12, 2019

Today’s episode is a little different. We meet Dr Rachel Fearnley; an author and social care expert on bereavement in childhood, who also has personal experience of losing her mother young. Rachel’s expertise is rooted in years of social care, and supporting children who have lost parents. Over the past 30 years, she has worked in care organisations such as NSPCC and Barnardo’s, directly caring for those who have faced the worst in their youth and managing family support services. Her work led her to explore many theories on attachment, loss and parent/child relationships. She bore witness to situations in which children were not given the emotional support they desperately needed when a parent died, and came to understand how various issues can manifest later in life as a result. She has developed a wealth of resources for health and care professionals, from publications such as “Communicating with Children when a Parent is at the End of Life” to “Let’s Talk About Dying”, helping provide much-needed guidance for issues that don’t receive much profile or funding.

Rachel is an infinitely curious soul and has explored many approaches, traditional and non-traditional, and more recently shifted her focus into research through a PhD plus awareness-raising through a national campaign, to generate the larger change that is sorely needed.

Both her practical experience and research have highlighted just how little support is out there for children in the parental bereavement scenario, and that what limited support does exist is nothing short of a postcode lottery.

In our conversation, we hear all about Rachel’s experience of working with children and families in children’s homes; how grief manifests in children; how we can improve the way we talk to little ones about death and dying; and the motivations and challenge behind writing her amazing new novel, Our family and IT.

Rachel is still looking for stories for her awareness-raising campaign, so please reach out to her if you have a story to tell. Are you a child, young person or parent who has been affected by parental life-limiting physical illness?

Hope you all get something out of this, and go check Rachel’s book out. If you have people in your circle of any age who might benefit from this conversation pass it on.

Check out the episode now on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher and TuneIn plus most Android apps.

Who fancies a Death Café with me?!

Show notes

Rachel’s website

Our family and IT

Previous publications


Child Bereavement UK


Death cafes

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