Caroline West-Meads: Can she ever escape these bullies?

Q. I am extremely worried about my granddaughter. She is 14 and had been doing well at school. She wasn’t one of the really popular girls but she had a few nice friends, loved art and maths, played in one of the netball teams and was fairly happy. All this changed a few weeks ago when she overheard some girls in her year saying horrible and untrue things about her friend’s sister, who is in the year below. She wanted to stand up for her but was slightly scared of these girls and instead told their form teacher. However, the teacher handled it badly. These girls were told off but not very strongly and, unfortunately, they realised that it was my granddaughter who had reported them. Now these bullies have turned their attention to my granddaughter and are making her life a misery, calling her names, making nasty comments about her and trying to get other girls in her year to ignore her. She is very upset. She has always been quite a serious and quiet child, but now she has become very withdrawn and often says she doesn’t want to go to school.

Caroline West-Meads
Chris O’Donovan

A. This is so sad – your granddaughter was trying to protect a younger child, yet she is the one being blamed and bullied. Unfairly, standing up for what is right isn’t always the easiest route, although it takes a lot of courage. You, your daughter and son-in-law should tell your granddaughter how proud you are of her. Reassure her that she did the right thing and encourage her to believe in herself – tell her that you will all support her. This may help her to feel a little stronger. Bullying is horrible and schools are duty bound to confront it. It doesn’t sound as though your granddaughter’s school has taken a strong stance on it, though, so your daughter or son-in-law should speak to her teacher or headteacher. But first they could get advice from bullying.co.uk (part of the charity Family Lives, helpline 0808 800 2222) or Young Minds (youngminds.org.uk; parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544). If your granddaughter still has loyal friends and if the school provides better pastoral support and takes tougher action, things may improve for her. Sometimes moving schools can help, but sadly, social media allows bullying to follow from one school to another. Your granddaughter sounds vulnerable and perhaps depressed, so make sure she gets help. Your daughter could give her details of the Young Minds’ Crisis Messenger text support service (text YM to 85258) and she can get counselling and help through The Mix (themix.org.uk).

I can’t get over the death of my lovely dog

Q. My 16-year-old dog died weeks ago and I can’t seem to move on after losing her. I feel embarrassed writing this as so many people have lost family members due to Covid-19 and I am grieving over ‘just’ a dog, but I loved her so much. My kids are grown up and living their own lives. I have tried talking to my husband but he is stressed with trying to run his business and though he is sympathetic and sad about it too, I can’t keep crying on his shoulder. I have always worked from home so  I was used to being with my dog most of the time. I think a new dog would help but puppies have become so expensive. I have put my name down for a rescue dog but there is a long waiting list.

A. As the owner of an adored and elderly cavalier spaniel whose death I am dreading, I understand how much your dog meant to you. So don’t be embarrassed for being sad – it
is perfectly understandable. Most pet owners consider their animals as family. It is a hard loss, especially when you have had your dog for so long and were able to spend so much time with her. She was your companion and life probably feels empty without her. It is particularly hard now, when there is so much uncertainty. Just like grieving for a person who has died, the most helpful thing is to talk to someone who understands. Contact bluecross.org.uk, which offers a pet bereavement support service. Pdsa.org.uk also has helpful advice on grieving for a pet. It is possible that this loss taps into others in the past. If you are crying a lot, it could be that you are depressed, so contact your GP for help.

If you have a problem, email Caroline at c.west-meads@mailonsunday.co.uk. Caroline reads all your letters but regrets she cannot answer each one personally.