Independent Thinking on Loss

A little book about bereavement for schools

By: Ian Gilbert


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Products specifications
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Size: 198 x 126mm
Pages : 96
ISBN : 9781781353530
Format: Paperback
Published: February 2020

Written from the personal experience of a parent and his three children, Independent Thinking on Loss: A little book about bereavement for schools details the ways in which schools can help their pupils come to terms with the death of a parent.

A child loses a parent every twenty-two minutes in the UK. Childhood bereavement brings with it a whole series of challenges for the children involved – challenges they will deal with all their lives. The research shows teachers want to help, but don't know what to do.

This book is a start.

Written by Independent Thinking founder Ian Gilbert together with his three children, Independent Thinking on Loss is a personal account of the way educational institutions tried and succeeded, tried and failed and sometimes didn't try at all to help William, Olivia and Phoebe come to terms with the death of their mother.

Several months after their mother's death, BBC's Newsround aired a brave and still controversial programme in which four children talked about their losses. This prompted Ian and his children to sit down and think about their own experiences and draw up a fifteen -strong list of dos and don'ts that could help steer schools towards a better understanding of what is needed from them at such a difficult time.

The warmth of reception of this handout led the family to expand their advice and suggestions into what has now become Independent Thinking on Loss, the proceeds of which will go to Winston's Wish, one of the UK's leading children's bereavement charities.

Ian, William, Olivia and Phoebe encourage educators to view death and bereavement as something that can be acknowledged and talked about in school, and offer clear guidelines that will make a difference as to how a school can support a bereaved child in their midst. They also explore how conversations and actions – little ones, whole-school ones, genuine ones, professional ones, personal ones – in the school setting can make an awful scenario just that little bit easier for children to deal with.

Suitable for anyone working with children and young people in an educational setting.

Independent Thinking on Loss is an updated edition of The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools (ISBN 9781845904647) and is one of a number of books in the Independent Thinking On ... series from the award-winning Independent Thinking Press.

Picture for author Ian Gilbert

Ian Gilbert

Since establishing Independent Thinking 25 years ago, Ian Gilbert has made a name for himself across the world as a highly original writer, editor, speaker, practitioner and thinker, and is someone who the IB World magazine has referred to as one of the world's leading educational visionaries.

The author of several books, and the editor of many more, Ian is known by thousands of teachers and young people across the world for his award-winning Thunks books. Thunks grew out of Ian's work with Philosophy for Children (P4C), and are beguiling yet deceptively powerful little philosophical questions that he has created to make children's – as well as their teachers' – brains hurt.

Ian's growing collection of bestselling books has a more serious side too, without ever losing sight of his trademark wit and straight-talking style. The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools, born from personal family experience, is finding a home in schools across the world, and The Working Class – a massive collaborative effort he instigated and edited – is making a genuine difference to the lives of young people from some of the poorest backgrounds.

A unique writer and editor, there is no other voice like Ian Gilbert's in education today.

See for yourself.

Ian was winner of The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society's inaugural Educational Writers Award (Nov 2008) for 'The Little Book of Thunks' - Click here for more information on the book.

Re-framing the Education Debate with Independent Thinker, Ian Gilbert.

Click here to read Ian Gilbert’s blog.

Click here to read Ian's article in International Teacher Magazine.


  1. This is a very powerful book which shares fifteen lessons on how teachers can deal with the issue of bereavement in the school setting. The book's author lost his wife in tragic circumstances, and in this book he talks not only about his emotions but also draws upon research on bereavement at a vulnerable age; his three children share their experiences and emotions, too.
  2. -‹In Independent Thinking on Loss, Ian Gilbert and his three children discuss the depth of suffering and sorrow they have experienced following the death of their mum. The main focus of this outstanding book is a reflection on the support or otherwise that they experienced in the aftermath of their loss, combined with a range of tips on what to do, and what not to do, when confronted with anyone who has experienced loss.

    -‹Ian Gilbert offers an insightful analysis of bereavement as a process rather than an event, which is particularly helpful for those people coping with the sudden death of a loved one. The key factor is that we need to come to terms with the fact that the process of loss never ends but rather evolves with us.

    -‹Reading this excellent little book will give parents, relatives, teachers, work colleagues and friends of those suffering loss an increased awareness of the skills and personal confidence to address bereavement as a topic that can be talked about and acknowledged, rather than something to shy away from or leave to someone else.
  3. Grief after the loss of a loved one is not recognised, unbelievably, to be an -˜adverse childhood experience'. This wonderful book - describing to the point of tears the lived experiences of a devastated father and his now motherless children after the sudden death of his wife - sets the record straight. The loss of a parent or loved one in childhood must be taken with the seriousness it deserves. We now not only know of the immediate impact of death on children of different ages, but also have incontrovertible evidence of the enormity of unresolved grief in adults bereaved as children.

    -˜Think adult, think child' should be the mantra for all concerned with dying parents to ask what the death means for children in the family. This is especially relevant to schools, every one of which can expect to have to confront the death of a pupil, a parent or a member of staff. School will often be the fixed point in a child's life, and so it is essential for everyone there to be prepared and to understand the child's changing needs as they grow up.

    This insightful, easy-to-read book shares invaluable advice based on personal experiences, and needs to be widely disseminated. It is a must-read for teachers, teachers in training and all who work to support children in distress. It has my unreserved support.
  4. Independent Thinking on Loss blends a family's personal experience with their knowledge of how schools work, and reminds us that a grieving child and their needs - whether expressed or not - should be at the forefront of our minds. It also emphasises how simple, human responses combined with thoughtful school policies and practices make a world of difference to a whole family, well beyond the child's school years. Ian also explains how giving a child choices - and acknowledging their pain and listening to them - is impactful, proactive and meaningful, and leaves a lasting impression upon children of others' capacity for humanity and kindness.
  5. Independent Thinking on Loss puts the reader in four different pairs of shoes and takes them in the same direction. Together, Ian Gilbert and his three children unveil their most intimate stories in the most heartfelt way to help us learn about living with loss and bereavement.

    Throughout the book the authors emphasise that a grieving child's well-being should be the only focus no matter at which educational stage the loss cuts into their lives. Doing the right thing at the right time is both a huge responsibility and a real opportunity, and they encourage every staff member of the school to respond properly when faced with such sensitive situations.

    In addition, and drawn from the Gilberts' personal experiences, the book provides a list of fifteen lessons that empower teachers and professionals working in schools to better support children, parents or friends who have suffered a bereavement. It also includes research findings to underline the link between a child's health, happiness and academic success and leaves no room for excuses.

    This book will be the pebble reminding you to do what is right even if it isn't simple. It will help you support the bereaved on their -˜puddly' or -˜river' days. It will make you a better person.
  6. We can learn so much from the memories of adults bereaved as children, from the ways in which the important people in their lives reacted to the bereavement, and from the things they said and did (as well as the things they didn't say and didn't do). Ian Gilbert's Independent Thinking on Loss provides powerful lessons to help us try to get things right when a child or young person is bereaved. All too often we worry about saying or doing the wrong things or making things worse, but in truth the worst has already happened - and this book encourages us to do something, for doing nothing is more damaging.
  7. Blunt, honest and helpful, Independent Thinking on Loss draws on the moving experiences of Ian, William, Olivia and Phoebe Gilbert and provides schools with practical advice on what to do, what to do differently and what to never do when a child has experienced the death of a family member.

    Schools are busy places, teachers are busy people, and talking about loss is not easy. The precious autobiographical insights and suggestions shared in this book allow time for reflection and to review whole-school approaches.

    I've learned a lot from Independent Thinking on Loss, and will be adding it to our school's staff library.
  8. When a child is faced with the loss of a loved one there is a lot that we can do to help them feel a little less alone, a little less lost in their grief, a little more able to go on. It's hard, but this book will help you find your way and be the adult that a grieving child needs. It will give you confidence and ideas - and some important pointers on what not to do, too.
  9. This little book has a big message. The message is in lessons to learn, to attend to, to respond to, to be prepared for. Because loss is secret, profound, unmentionable - and skirting around the issue is culturally normal; Independent Thinking on Loss shouts with clarity and without shame or embarrassment. The reader is held responsible, to reflect on their responses, to consider the depth of confusion and vulnerability of young children experiencing an alien, all-consuming and culturally unacceptable phenomenon. And yet the reader is guided, supported, understood for past mistakes. The rationale (if one was needed) for teachers managing grief in the classroom is the same rationale for teachers managing social skills and emotional intelligence in the classroom; emotionally supported children develop resilience and achieve well. But surely, way beyond that, a teacher's ethos and philosophy regarding children as precious and unique and worthy of care as well as education is what calls them to respond to each child in their uniqueness and in acceptance of messy lives that need supporting. This firm and undeniable rationale unashamedly provided by Ian lays wide open the potential long-term outcomes and consequences if bereavement is not managed well.

    The accounts written by William, Olivia and Phoebe are imbued with courageous honesty. An honesty which demands that you encounter the strength and confidence with which they are written in parallel with the vulnerability and fragility of personal, individual pain, together with an underpinning desire that we all learn from their experiences. This book disallows any justification we might have in asking, -˜But what could I do?' -˜What could I say?' - and demands that we act, react and are prepared to act, by teaching us how to act.

    The sharing of the individuality and uniqueness of the experience of this profound loss by each member of this family - together with the sharing of subsequent experiences of the reactions of those around them - demonstrates that bereavement is going to be different for everyone who experiences it. This little book gives confidence in preparedness for the inevitability of this situation in the classroom and in life - because it really will be there, and in being prepared we will be more confident to be guided by the child and the family, taking time to find out what will be useful, and taking time and thought in communication, which in turn may have a significant impact on those potential long-term outcomes outlined right at the beginning of the book. And it is the honesty and depth of this sharing that gives weight and wealth to the vitally important lessons of Independent Thinking on Loss.

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