Ben Kinsella Lock Heart at the Ben Kinsella Trust exhibition


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We need to work with children and young people to help them to understand the pain and injustice of loss

It can be argued that loss is a normal part of life. The loss of a job; the breakdown of a relationship; the parting of a friend who moves abroad to live the dream; the end of an era, be it a school term, a graduation or retirement. These are all regular parts of this life with which we can identify.

For adults, bereavement sadly becomes a natural part of life and whilst people might hone convincing coping mechanisms, be it faith, yoga, exercise or something else, the reality of bereavement is inescapable and the pain, palpable. People learn to live with it as there is no alternative.

Part of the tragedy of Ben’s story is the injustice of what happened to him that night in 2008. Ben had never been involved in any negative activity. Ben was a normal teenager – as normal as any teenager – yet he was murdered in a senseless act of violence which ripped through a family and a community.

The street violence that we see today, the vicious, often fleeting acts of anger which destroy lives, are never the way to solve anything. Even if someone is involved in negative activity, knife crime is not the answer – there are always non-violent, sensible, legal ways to settle arguments or to put a point across. Somehow we are in a place where violence has become prescriptive and normalised; a place where stabbing someone is perceived by some as an acceptable way to settle a score. Ben had no involvement in the argument which took place that night – the killers took an innocent life, for no reason, and the ripples of impact, ripple on.

As teachers, youthworkers, practitioners, we need to work with children and young people via a trauma-informed approach to help them to understand the pain and injustice of loss. It is a delicate balance to strike; we need to be profound in the reality, but we must not further traumatise them.

When I facilitate the anti-knife crime workshops for primary schools, I ask them how they feel when their best friend isn’t in school one day for some reason; maybe they have a dentist appointment, maybe they are unwell.


‘I miss them’,

come the answers. I then move into a scenario – ‘Just imagine that your best friend isn’t in school one day, nor the next day, nor the next. Then you’re told that they are not coming back and that you will never see them again’. The younger students’ eyes widen as they imagine this unexpected loss and we think about the feelings associated with it. I then liken this to what happened to Ben – ‘One day, he wasn’t there any more; and all because some people were so angry that they used a knife to kill an innocent boy’.

The unexpected loss of a person may not easy for a child to imagine; I tend to liken the concept to the loss of something special, of something one is used to, or familiar with. The ‘injustice of loss’ is a harsh term, yet it is the reality when it comes to violent crime; there is no justice when it comes to using a weapon, whether or not someone sets out to kill or maim, the act of using a knife as a weapon violates the freedom of the individual. The senseless way in which violence wrecks the lives of normal people is not something to be underestimated. Taking an empathetic, trauma-informed approach to safeguarding our children and young people is key.

Life is seen by those who carry knives as cheap, worthless, easily ended. The pain of loss is hard to bear for anyone, but particularly for children and young people. Let’s work with our children and young people and support them to understand how we can de-normalise knife crime and comprehend the injustice of loss.

Helen BB

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