Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Eudcation


School of Education

First Supervisor

Cynthia Dixon


There are many children who have suffered the loss of a parent through death or divorce/separation. Generally, people expect children to "carry on" while such traumatic events in their lives take place. Bereaved parents may send their children back to school as soon as possible after the death. In the case of divorce/ separation, the child attends school while the trauma unfolds on a day-to- day basis. Bereaved and distressed parents are often unaware of their children's grief and unable to give the support that the children need. Parents are likely to deny, on many occasions, that the children have been affected by the loss.

As a result, these bereaved children struggle at school with a myriad of emotions and feelings that are unfamiliar to them. These new and strange emotions and feelings are frightening to the recently bereaved children who usually feel responsible for the death/ divorce/ separation. They feel very angry about what has happened. Their whole reality has changed. The family situation has altered forever. A parent, who was a significant person in the child's life, is now absent.

The research undertaken in this project is an evaluation of the Rainbows program, a program designed to assist bereaved children in the grieving process, from nine to twelve years of age. The program facilitates children in discussing their emotions, feelings and experiences with their peers. The children support each other in their journey through the bereavement process. Thirty-two children from St Xavier's primary school have participated in the program. Data was obtained from both students and parents by way of questionnaire.

Analysis of data indicates that the program has assisted the children in dealing with the grief and loss experienced through death, divorce or separation of a parent. It was discovered that anger is possibly a more serious aspect of the bereavement process in children than expected. Children do not "get over" the death/divorce/separation but live with the new situation on a day to day basis.