Courtesy of the author As parents there are some conversations we can dread having with our kids as they grow up – from the constant “why?” questions to the science homework questions to which we don’t know the answer to, of course, The Talk.
One of the conversations we probably don’t ever think of having is the one where we explain to our child that one of their parents has died. But when my husband died following a heart attack, this is exactly what I had to do with my son.
My husband of 16 years had become unwell in the early hours of a Monday morning in 2013 and was taken to hospital by ambulance. When my son and I arrived we were told he’d gone into cardiac arrest, and despite their best efforts he never regained consciousness. He died five days later.
Nothing prepares you for that moment. I couldn’t believe what was happening to us, yet I had to try and explain things to my eight-year-old son as honestly as possible in a way he would understand. I told him that his daddy’s heart had stopped working and that the doctors had tried everything they could to make it start again, but the damage to his body was too bad and he had died. He was, of course, devastated, but he seemed to understand what I was telling him. “From couple to now single, with sole responsibility for everything: not just the parenting, but the finance, cooking, cleaning, even putting the bins out.. suddenly it was all down to me” In that instant, everything in our lives changed. I was a widow at 39. From couple to now single, with sole responsibility for everything: not just the parenting, but the finance, cooking, cleaning, even putting the bins out.. suddenly it was all down to me. This was never the plan.
For the days, weeks and months afterwards I was desperately trying to negotiate my way through this nightmare. There was so much to organise and I was still in shock – with sleep often elusive, I was surviving on adrenaline and caffeine. I was lucky to have some wonderful friends and family to support me, but as time went on I soon realised who was in it for the long haul, and whose help ended at “if there’s anything you need just ask” in a sympathy card.
What makes it even harder when you’re a parent is that not only are you trying to process your own grief, you have to try and help your child to manage their grief too. I have learned that children grieve very differently to us adults – while for us it can feel like we’re in the sea with waves of grief constantly crashing around us, for children it’s often like jumping in and out of puddles. They can be inconsolable one minute and running off to play the next; incredibly angry to laughing and joking in an instant. It’s unpredictable and can be difficult to understand.
Then, as they process what they’re going through, come the questions – often asked at the most inopportune moments. On the way to school or settling down to sleep , that’s when they’ll hit you with a deep question about death. “Anniversaries and birthdays are always particularly tough, but we get through them and carry on.” I’ve learned it’s best to try and answer honestly, yet appropriately for their age. As tempting as it may be to try and dodge the difficult questions or change the subject, kids will fill the gaps in their understanding themselves – and that can be even worse than the truth.
In the beginning it feels overwhelming and like it will never get better – but it does get easier with time. The pain is still there, but it is less raw, less all-consuming. However, for children they can experience their grief with a new level of understanding as they get older and reach a new stage of maturity. Times of transition can bring grief to the forefront again too. Like moving class or school or other times of change when the absence of the missing parent is felt so very deeply. However, children who have experienced this type of loss can often develop a level of emotional intelligence beyond their years. Recognising when others are struggling.
We are over six years on now, with my son now a teenager. Parenting alone has been a challenge – no-one to share the decision making and discipline with, but on the flip side no-one to argue about the parenting with either! The buck stops with me. This can be terrifying and liberating in equal measure. My son is growing into a wonderfully caring and funny young man and I’m immensely sad that his dad isn’t here to see it. Anniversaries and birthdays are always particularly tough, but we get through them and carry on.
One positive is we decided to use what had happened to us to try and help other families in a similar situation. Grief can be incredibly isolating, and there can be great comfort in meeting those with a shared experience. So three years after my husband died, the charity Bereaved Children Support York was born. We run a monthly drop-in session for bereaved children and families, a group for parents as well as offering one-to-one therapeutic support for those children who need it. We continue to grow and have met some truly wonderful people along the way. “We might think we’re protecting our children by not explaining what has happened, but avoiding confusion and teaching our kids they can trust the adults around them to tell the truth matters” Although it is not something we like to talk about , a child is bereaved of a parent every 22 minutes in the UK. It happens more than you might think, and however unthinkable it is, it’s worth knowing what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.
Be honest with your child. We might think we’re protecting our children by not explaining what has happened, but avoiding confusion and teaching our kids they can trust the adults around them to tell the truth matters. My son would often ask questions about why the doctors couldn’t make his dad better and I would explain as best I could. Sometimes I would have to say “I don’t know”, but that was okay too.
Use the right words. It can feel harsh using words like ‘dead’ and ‘died’, but terms like ‘passed away’ or ‘gone to sleep’ can cause fear and anxiety to children.
Accept, and offer, practical help. If you are the bereaved person and people around offer to help out in practical ways, let them. I can’t tell you the relief of someone texting to ask if I needed anything from the shop or my son taking to an after school activity – I wouldn’t ask, but I was happy to say yes. It might sound like nothing, but if you’re looking for ways to support a bereaved person offer specific help like preparing meals to go in the freezer, offer to take their child to school, cut the grass or do the shopping. It is much easier to accept help like that instead of a general offer. “Yes this is not the life we planned, but it can still be a good life.” Be kind to yourself. There are no ‘rules’ when it comes to grief, but here’s one certainty: it’s exhausting! Rest when you can, eat as healthily as you can and try and get out in the fresh air and do some exercise when you feel up to it.
It can also be helpful to meet others in a similar situation, both for the children and the adults. Local charities like Bereaved Children Support York can help as can national charities like Widowed and Young. There are also great organisations like Child Bereavement UK and Winston’s Wish who have excellent online resources as well as a great helpline you can ring for advice.
Grief and loss are painful, but I have found it important to try and look to the future with positivity. Yes this is not the life we planned, but it can still be a good life. My son will be forever changed by what has happened to him, but hopefully we can help him – and others – find ways to navigate through their grief so that it does not negatively impact their future.
Life is precious. Families who have experienced loss, like ours, know that more than most.
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here , and pitch us on firstname.lastname@example.org More from HuffPost UK Personal
I Threw A ‘Hen Don’t’ Party To Celebrate My Divorce
Saul Loeb / Getty Images The fifth Democratic debate came and went Wednesday without a single question about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans — a topic that no debate moderator has brought up at any debate this year, with the exception of a June question directed only at Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
The ten Democrats answered an unusually broad range of questions that varied from abortion rights to white supremacist violence to chants of “Lock him up” at Democratic rallies. None of the questions touched on LGBTQ rights — despite the presence on stage of the country’s first viable openly gay candidate for president, Pete Buttigieg, as well as an openly lesbian moderator, Rachel Maddow.
Wednesday also marked the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to mark the memories of transgender people who were killed in anti-trans violence. Former housing secretary Julián Castro, who is running for president but did not qualify for the night’s debate, tweeted to note that the day had not been mentioned onstage.
LGBTQ activists have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of questions about queer rights on the Democratic debate stage. A case is looming before the Supreme Court that could determine whether LGBTQ Americans are protected from employment discrimination, and there is a spate of ongoing violence against black transgender women.
In the first debate, Gabbard, who has a checkered history over gay rights from her earliest days in politics, was asked about her own record.
The topic has otherwise been relegated to two forums focused on LGBTQ rights, including a CNN town hall in October, where nine candidates appeared. Buttigieg gave a moving answer in those forums about his experience being prevented from donating blood at an annual blood drive hosted by his own office, calling for the overhaul of rules prohibiting gay men from blood donation.
Buttigieg, in responding to a question about appealing to diverse voters, did bring up his sexuality Wednesday night. “I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country,” he said, “turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate.”
Scotland’s census will give individuals up to 21 options under this category including skolisexual and demiromantic.
Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio GROUPS AND ADVOCATES for the LGBT+ community requested an option to address sexual orientation and gender identity on the Census 2021 in order to “provide an honest view of Irish society” and rectify a “historic wrong”.
In 2017, the Government launched a public consultation to decide what should or should not be included on the Census 2021 survey. The final draft was signed off on earlier this year and includes new questions around childcare, household smoke alarms, and access to the internet.
But during the public consultation, questions were raised around whether a possible sexual orientation question would be included, a question which appears on the national Census of other European countries.
At present the current Irish Census asks ‘what is your sex?’ with an option for ‘male’ and ‘female’ available in response.
The CSO has decided that a question on sexual orientation will not appear on Census 2021 in Ireland. A Census spokesperson said it would be considered again ahead of the 2026 Census in seven years’ time.
Last month, Scotland announced it was planning to include sexual orientation on its 2021 Census with a question including four options: heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, and other.
Under the ‘other’ category, the Census – which is carried out online – will offer further categories including options like scolisexual, demiromantic, gynephilic, and polysexual.
While these options were not mentioned in submissions for the Irish Census, a number of issues were raised about recognition and visibility of LGBT people in Ireland.
One submission from a member of the public and seen by TheJournal.ie under Freedom of Information suggested it would be an “invaluable resource” and would act as a way of “rectifying” issues around the treatment of the LGBT community in Ireland.
“I was disappointed that no attempt was made to determine the sexual orientation of respondents to the 2016 Census,” they said.
“The LGBTQ community continues to deal with issues relating to invisibility and erasure from the public record and this information would contribute significantly to rectifying the historic wrong.”
Another submission from charity BeLong To suggested the public should be able to select whether they were male, female or non-binary under the heading of gender identity, as well as answering another question on sexual orientation with options including gay, straight, queer, or other.
Issues were also raised about other vulnerable groups during the public consultation.
Disability charity Inclusion Ireland said it would also have been of benefit to members of the public with a disability as there is a lack of data in relation to this group and sexual identity.
“People with disabilities who identify as LGBTQI+ may experience discrimination because of their disability, their sexual or gender identity, or other parts of their identity,” it said.
“The availability of data would help public bodies to ensure that they are complying with the Public Sector Duty and help civil society to monitor this and hold the public sector to account.”
While members of the public and organisations such as Belong To and the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) formed much of the correspondence received by the CSO, government departments also weighed in with their support.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said “eight of the nine grounds for discrimination are covered by the existing Census form and sexual orientation is the only ground that is not”.
“Data on gender and sexual identity at a small area level may be useful for planning for sexual health resources.
“We understand that the UK’s ONS are considering including a sexual and gender identity question in the 2021 Census of England and Wales. The ONS are currently conducting further research on same.”
The Department of Justice also recommended including a question on sexual orientation.
A Census spokesperson said it is carrying out a trial involving a question on sexual orientation in the Quarterly National Household Survey, and data collected will inform discussions on the issue for future Census surveys.
“The aim is to see how it goes with other CSO surveys with a view to maybe having a question like this in future,” they said.
Israel Folau. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) Homophobic rugby star Israel Folau and his wife Maria managed to make the lives of LGBT+ youth a little better yesterday, albeit, unknowingly.
The duo dined at a vegan restaurant in Australia a couple weeks ago.
But the owners decided to pull a fast one on the disgraced sportsperson by donating his payment to a queer youth charity.
Gorilla Kitchen thanked Folau in a Facebook post yesterday which comes just days after he said the gays are back at it again with their weather-changing powers and have caused the bushfires blanketing Australia . Israel Folau ‘inadvertently’ shows support for LGBT+ community, says vegan café.
It’s safe to say the Auckland restaurant served up sass on its social media last night.
“Well we are proud to say that Israel Folau and his wife Maria Folau have inadvertently shown their support to Rainbow Youth,” the plant-based eatery posted, paired with a picture of an LGBT+ Pride flag.
“We don’t turn anyone away at Gorilla Kitchen, because we love everyone, not just animals.
“So, when Israel and Maria came in again a couple of weeks ago, we happily served them, hydrated them and fed them. “What they didn’t realise was their money spent at Gorilla Kitchen was going to be donated to Rainbow Youth, an organisation that embraces diversity and offers support for our young and vulnerable rainbow community.
“Glad to see they are not ashamed for supporting such a great cause.”
After preheating your oven, roast the Folau, basting halfway through cooking time. Season appropriately.
Extra salty is preferred.
The café then encouraged followers to support the charity, and head over to the Rainbow Youth website .
Who is Israel Folau?
Earlier this year, Folau, 30, saw his four year contract with his team torn up and himself plunged into controversy after he made controversial comments on his Instagram account.
He posted a message telling gay people, alcoholics and atheists that “hell awaits” them. Israel Folau departs after Rugby Australia’s code of conduct hearing. (Matt King/Getty Images) It kicked off a furore, a lengthy court battle and a surreal scene where his supporters raised money for his legal fees despite him being a millionaire.
He has since asserted that he has “no regrets” over the comments that effectively ended his career.
Moreover, he has since eclipsed them by linking marriage equality to the deadly wildfires that have destroyed around 2.5 million acres of farmland over the last few weeks.
Comments that attracted support even from some lawmakers.
Three patients became ill and one of them died because of the infected organs A transplant patient died after a surgeon failed to disclose he had spilt stomach contents on organs which went on to be used in NHS operations.
The 36-year-old died of an aneurysm caused directly by infection from a donated liver, while two other patients became ill from transplants.
The incident took place in Wales in 2015 and involved a surgeon from Oxford University NHS Foundation Trust.
The trust has agreed damages of £215,000 for one of the cases.
Several organs became infected with Candida albicans, a fungal infection, after the surgeon cut the stomach in a donor while retrieving organs, spilling the contents over other organs.
The surgeon did not tell anyone as he should have done and the organs were transplanted into three patients. How well does the NHS spend its money?
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One recipient died after receiving an infected liver, while a 44-year-old received a kidney and pancreas and a 25-year-old parent from Wales received a kidney.
The incident only came to light after surgeons at Cardiff & Vale University Health Board raised the alarm with the Human Tissue Authority and the Welsh Government.
They became worried when the 25-year-old patient who received the kidney, and who was under their care at the University Hospital of Wales, became seriously unwell due to the infected organ.
The patient, who does not wish to be named but is from south Wales, needed the donor kidney removing as an emergency after suffering extreme pain and extensive internal bleeding.
The 25-year-old was placed in an induced coma and given 16 blood transfusions, before spending a year on dialysis having never needed it before. Risk of infection
The Oxford University trust has paid £215,000 in damages to the patient after they launched a legal challenge.
A serious incident report by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said the surgeon had "no recollection of anything of note" when taking the organs, but had noticed a "small nick" on reflection which saw a small amount of stomach content spilt.
The spill was not documented at the time of the procedure, meaning those receiving the organs and their doctors were unaware of the risk of infection.
The NHSBT report concluded: "This incident represents an example of donor-transmitted infection with Candida albicans which contributed to the loss of one kidney graft and the death of a liver recipient.
"The infection of the graft may have arisen during the retrieval procedure."
The trust admitted it had been in breach of duty of care by the failure of the surgeon to record the cut into the donor’s stomach. ‘The surgeon wasn’t honest’
In defence of the legal action, trust lawyers claimed that, despite the stomach spill, even if known at the time of transplant, the risk would have been considered low.
But solicitor Jodi Newton, a medical negligence specialist at Hudgell Solicitors, representing the patient, said it was "a completely unacceptable breach of duty of care" which was "extremely damaging for patient trust in surgeons".
The patient, who did not want to be named, said: "What angers me to this day is that fact that the surgeon who removed the organs from the donor wasn’t honest.
"It was only when people who received the organs became unwell that the truth was told."
Prof Meghana Pandit, chief medical officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "This is a very unusual circumstance and we are keen to ensure that we do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again in future."
John Forsythe, medical director for organ donation and transplantation at NHSBT, said: "Our thoughts are with the recipients and their families over this sad and unusual case.
"We acted quickly to investigate what happened and we worked with transplant centres afterwards. Our report concluded the infection of the transplanted organ may have arisen during the retrieval procedure."
It is unclear whether the families of the 36-year-old who died or the 44-year-old are aware of the incident.
NHSBT said it was up to local transplant centres to inform patients about contamination.
Lewis Hamilton sealed his sixth world drivers’ title with second place in the United States GP Lewis Hamilton is explaining what keeps him hungry – how, despite six world championships, 83 Grand Prix victories and more money than he probably ever dreamed of, his desire for success in Formula 1 burns as bright as ever.
"The thing is I never got into it for money," the Mercedes driver says. "Of course it is great that that piles up – no problem. That is a bonus. As long as those things don’t become the lead factor of what I do.
"The core of what I do is that I love racing. I love the challenge. I love arriving knowing I have got these incredibly talented youngsters who are trying to beat me and outperform me, outsmart me, and I love that battle that I get into every single year.
"And I am working with these guys [his Mercedes engineers] who are so much smarter than me and they make me feel smarter. When I am challenging them and proving them wrong so many times, it is unreal."
Hamilton laughs and refers to the conversations he has with chief engineer Andrew Shovlin and his colleagues about the complexities of the car.
"It happens a lot," Hamilton says. "I say something to Shov, and he will say: ‘No, the numbers say this’, and I will say: ‘It’s this and this and this.’ And he will say: ‘Oh you are right.’ It feels so good. There are a lot of things like that."
Hamilton is in expansive form as he discusses his 2019 season and all matters involved in it. Over the course of the interview he covers: Why this season was tougher than it looked
The demands of F1 and his lifestyle outside the sport
Personal struggles and his climate-crisis messages on Instagram
Rationalising the risks in the wake of the death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert
The pain of defeat
Anthoine Hubert was killed at this year’s Belgian Grand Prix in Formula 2 A question of life and death
One of the most fundamental questions any human being can ask themselves is what their life is worth, what risks they are prepared to take to do what they enjoy.
While Formula 1 drivers are confronted with this to some degree every time they get in their car, it became very real for them at the Belgian Grand Prix this year when Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert was killed in a crash shortly after F1 qualifying had finished.
Hamilton was doing his television interviews at the time, and the footage of his reaction when he saw the accident on a screen nearby, the anguish on his face before he cut an interview short and walked away, is chilling.
Hamilton has mentioned the impact of Hubert’s death very briefly a couple of times this season in passing. But this is the first time he has talked about it in depth.
"It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen that happen in my career," Hamilton says. "I remember quite vividly when I was young I won this race in Kimbolton [aged eight] and Daniel Spence died and that was a tragic time for me as a kid, the first time I had known someone to die. And I was just with him that day.
"That was a tough one. This one, I was doing an interview and I saw it happen out of the corner of my eye and I just knew it was [bad]. And lots of things flashed through my mind.
"I remember watching Ayrton [Senna] when he watched [Roland] Ratzenberger crash and seeing his face. There was a lot of deja vu in that experience.
"A lot of thoughts went through my mind in the evening. I worried about the kid. I know what it’s like to be in F2 and having the dream of being somewhere.
"’The cars are still unsafe.’ Particularly lower down the ranks it’s probably even less safe than it is for us.
"And then there is the question of how much more do you need, how much more do you want? And finding all those balances.
"I’m not chasing because I have to have it, because I love what I do. And I was like, ‘Jeez, I could spend more time with my family’ and all these things that you can look back on.
"I’m sure when it comes to your last day and you’re at the pearly gates – I like to think you’re at the pearly gates – you’re looking back on your life, you’re never asking: ‘I wish I had more money.’ You always wish you had more time. And you probably have a ton of regrets: ‘If only I’d made that decision on that day, I could have spent more time with my loved one’ or whatever it is.
"All those things were going through my mind. But there was never a second I thought I wasn’t going to keep racing. The fear factor never crept in.
"That was an important factor for me. Because I remember when that kid died, when I was eight, one of my best friends at the time quit racing. Fear crept into him and he just quit. For me, I was like, if that ever creeps into me, I know that’s the last legs of my career." Hamilton was the subject of scrutiny over a social media post in which he felt like "giving up" ‘I would say I have a very complex life’
That was not the only time the wider questions of existence have crept into Hamilton’s professional life this season. After arriving home from the Japanese Grand Prix in October, he took to Instagram to post some messages reflecting his despair over the climate crisis, saying the world was "messed up" and he felt like "giving up on everything".
He defended his intervention on arriving at the subsequent race in Mexico. But he never addressed whether there was a wider personal context to it.
"There is," he now admits, "but I don’t really wish to go into that."
He adds: "Most of the time, I wear my heart on my sleeve, so it was an emotional post, which is not always good to do. It just felt like I was banging my head against the wall and not gaining ground.
"There is a lot of push-back on a lot of things I do, and a lot of questioning of everything I do and say. You live your life under a magnifying glass. And the pressure for anyone that’s in the limelight… we’re only human, so at some stage you’re going to buckle a little bit.
"But I always say it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up. And I really turned that negativity into a positive and came back and won that next race. And you’ll probably see if you look back in the history of the times I’ve often had those difficult phases, I’ve often won the next races. That’s where my strength lies."
How does he feel to have his personal views – and his right to express them – questioned?
"I just understand it’s just the way of life," Hamilton says. "But the fact that is the way it is doesn’t make it any easier.
"I would say I have a very complex life. I’m sure we all have complex lives. But I can’t talk about absolutely how complex it is.
"I am trying to be more open about that, as you’ll see on my social. But there is a line where it’s the limit and for me personally that one there was slightly over the limit.
"But I don’t regret it. Because I think for those who are following me and are on this journey with me, I don’t think showing vulnerability is always a bad thing. They can just see I’m human at the end of the day." Hamilton has been keen for some time to pursue outside interests, such as his growing interest in fashion, and he and Mercedes have always insisted that giving him the freedom to pursue his other ambitions revitalises him and ultimately makes him perform better.
But Hamilton admits he has to be careful not to take too much on.
"I would say just the energy load, there is a lot; I have to take a lot of weight. I don’t go to the races and just go home, and [be at] home all week just training, which would be so much easier. I have so many commitments. And I would say that in many areas that’s a strength but if I’m not careful that can easily tip over and be a weakness.
"I am constantly monitoring that. I run a tight ship with Marc [Hynes, his adviser and close friend] and my guys. I don’t plan to be the easiest person to work with. I tell you how it is.
"And if I ever feel that I need to back away, I’ve got people around me who [are supportive]. Like [last] Monday, for example, I was, like, ‘Bono, I can’t be there Monday but let’s catch up on Tuesday because I’m overloaded. I need to sleep.’ It’s about understanding your body and making sure you stay centred." Jack Nicholls: ‘Why Hamilton is better than Senna & Schumacher’ ‘I can stay focused in meetings for, like, 23 minutes’
‘Bono’ is Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington, one of the key figures at Mercedes – along with technical director James Allison, Shovlin, chief strategist James Vowles and others – who have helped shape the team into such a formidable force.
Just before this interview, Hamilton was deep in conversation with Allison and Shovlin about some technical matter, and he says his growth in this area has been critical to his continuing success.
"I’ve just sat with James, and these guys are so smart; their intelligence level is on another stratosphere compared to mine," Hamilton says.
"However, their minds can’t compute what I can do in the car. We’re just tuned differently. Trying to understand them, sitting at the table and speaking to them about what they can take from me to apply to the car, is really the key."We’re always working on that relationship, that rapport," Hamilton continues. "We know each other so well."I go in a meeting with them at the factory and those guys can sit in meetings for hours and stay focused. I have a window of, say, 23 minutes or something like that. As soon as I get there, it’s all going over my head. They know. I say: ‘Look, I gotta get up, go for a pee, have a coffee or something and I can come back.’ And they get another 23 minutes." Hamilton totting up his championships with actor Matthew McConaughey (left) after winning his sixth title at the US GP The 2019 season and its challenges At Mercedes, […]
A film shot by a father and his son, together stuck in detention on the Hungarian-Serbian border, has premiered at human rights festivals in Europe.
Iranian artist Abouzar Soltani and 10-year-old Armin have been stuck in a Transit Zone in Hungary for almost a year.
They entered the country legally to apply for asylum, in December 2018, after waiting more than two years in Serbia.
Their film, Fish, has now been shown at the human rights festivals in Bratislava and Budapest.
Produced by Nick Thorpe.
Bears have become so numerous that there are growing calls for a return to trophy hunting A spate of deadly bear attacks in Romania has raised fears that the population of Europe’s largest protected carnivore is increasing beyond control.
Three men have been killed in little over a month in this East European country that hosts the Continent’s biggest number of brown bears.
"The bear population has increased and it needs to be reduced," warns gamekeeper Karoly Pal. The mood is such that some politicians have waged something akin to a war on bears.
Some 6,000 bears live in Romania and incidents involving the animals are becoming increasingly common: A 61-year-old fisherman was killed in Mures County in October
A man aged 46 was fatally attacked in Bacau County, to the east, in late October
A 63-year-old shepherd was killed by a bear this month on the edge of a forest in Mures County in central Transylvania
The three deaths in the past few weeks bring to at least six the number of fatalities this year, with scores of non-fatal attacks also reported. By comparison, 11 people were killed by bears in Romania between 2000 and 2015.
Warning: This story includes a picture of a dying bear that some readers may find disturbing
Karoly Pal stands in the courtyard of his small farmstead in Neaua, a Hungarian-speaking settlement in the remote reaches of Romania’s historical Transylvania region.
"Everywhere I go in this area people are saying that there are too many bears, that you can’t produce any crops anymore. People are forced to abandon agriculture and their land – and they are afraid to go outside the villages." Romania has an estimated bear population of 6,000 "Everybody in this area is coming to me to claim damages," adds the gamekeeper. Accidents on the increase
Bears have laid waste to farmers’ crops, damaged cars and killed livestock, and have been involved in a recent spate of collisions with cars. EU moves to protect big beasts
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Rare brown bear dies in capture operation
On Saturday evening a large male bear was struck by a car in Harghita County, and it took authorities a reported 19 hours to put it down.
The bear had suffered three broken limbs and lay in agony on the road, guarded by police as people looked on. Romanians were outraged that the bear had been left for hours to die on the road Prime Minister Ludovic Orban echoed the anger of many when he complained that authorities had failed to do their duty. He said it had taken more than 15 hours for the environment ministry to receive the request to shoot the bear. It was not until Sunday afternoon that the bear finally died.
Since then another two bears have been hit by cars.
Brown bears can cover huge distances in their quest for food as they consume up to 20,000 calories per day in the warmer months to fatten up for winter. Avoiding human settlements, crops, livestock, and roads along the way is proving to be a challenge for the wild animals. These are the movements of one male bear collared and tracked near Neaua over two years by conservation NGO Milvus Group "One night last week I counted 22 bears [in this area]," says Karoly Pal, walking down a barren dirt road from Neaua to Ghinesti, one of five villages in this remote commune. A return to hunting?
Many believe the steep increase in the bear population is down to a 2016 ban on trophy hunting which was widely applauded by environmentalists.
But Romania’s official bear population figures could be well off the mark, say experts.
Population estimates have traditionally been carried out by wildlife managers, they point out, citing "out of date" methods and the possible influence of vested interests.
"Since the ban on trophy hunting there was a push by hunters and game managers to report as many damages [claims] as possible," says bear expert Csaba Domokos of the nature conservation NGO Milvus Group. Meet the man who saved Bulgaria’s dancing bears "There is almost no kind of management in place by authorities. We really have no idea how many bears there are," he says.
Mr Domokos fears that, without an effective management programme, villagers will start to take matters into their own hands.
"The concern is that people will start to use poison and snares," he says, warning of a catastrophic effect on Romania’s brown bear population.
The issue has whipped some local media into a frenzy, with news about "problematic" bears. Bears will soon be approaching hibernation Mures County MP Marius Pascan has said his area is "under siege" by bears.
"We must react in solidarity before more people are killed," he said in a social media post last week after a mother bear and two cubs were photographed walking down a residential street.
"Bear defenders" were being irresponsible, he complained, and children could be harmed on their way to school. Murdered for trying to save Europe’s oldest forests
Romanian lawmakers passed a bill in September that would allow the hunting of brown bears for a five-year period. But the move has angered conservationists, and a petition against the bill has so far gathered more than 100,000 signatures. ‘Situation worse than ever’
On a drizzly November day in the hills surrounding Ghinesti, a short distance from Neaua, 69-year-old shepherd Janos Szabo watches over his large flock, as he has for the past 42 years. Like many shepherds, Janos Szabo has lost several of his flock to bears "We have a big problem with bears, they killed four of my sheep this year," he says, taking a sip of homemade plum brandy as his 15-strong pack of gnarly-looking sheepdogs keep guard.
"All the shepherds have problems [with bears]. The situation is worse than ever."
After a long period of fattening up, some of Romania’s bears will soon begin their winter sleep, and that could help ease tensions.
Conservationist Csaba Domokos says coexistence is deteriorating fast and a solution has to be found.
"Without social acceptance, the species has no future in Romania," he adds.
Not going to vote? You’re not alone. The reasons vary – cynicism, feeling powerless, feeling uninformed – but across the UK, almost a third of the electorate didn’t use their right to choose their MP in the last few elections.
But if you think your vote doesn’t matter, you could be wrong. The number of non-voters is greater than the sitting MP’s majority in 551 out of 650 constituencies: that’s more than 80%.
Take Boris Johnson’s constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip , for example: 23,716 people voted for him in 2017, giving him a majority of 5,034. However, 22,798 voters on the electoral register didn’t turn out at all. That means he has a theoretical majority of just 918 over those who didn’t vote.
That puts him just beyond the 142 seats where there were more non-voters than people who voted for the winning MP.
In some seats the gap between the winner and second place was incredibly tight. In 11, the MP won by fewer than 100 votes. Yet in each of those there were between 12,000 and 30,000 registered electors who didn’t turn out.
To put it another way, if all those unused ballots had been counted towards a single separate party, it would have won more than 140 seats in the House of Commons. These figures include spoiled and rejected papers among those who voted. However, they only take account of those who were registered to vote.
That means the actual number of non-voters could be even higher because millions of potential voters are either incorrectly registered or not registered at all .
Young people will make up a big share of non-voters. The British Election Study estimates that between 40% and 50% of those aged 18 to their mid-20s voted in 2015 and 2017 compared with about 80% of voters aged in their 70s.
The data on turnout by ethnic group is patchier, but the Runnymede Trust says self-reported turnout in 2017 ranged from 74% to 91% for people of South Asian descent , 51% to 85% for black Caribbeans and Africans, and 82% to 83% for white British voters.
The deadline to register to vote for the 2019 general election is Tuesday 26 November. Constituencies with the smallest majorities after the 2017 election
Constituency Majority (2017) Non-voters North East Fife 2 16,639 Kensington 20 21,575 Perth and North Perthshire 21 19,900 Dudley North 22 22,947 Newcastle-under-Lyme 30 21,183 Southampton, Itchen 31 24,675 Richmond Park 45 16,366 Crewe and Nantwich 48 23,244 Glasgow South West 60 27,391 Glasgow East 75 29,814 Arfon 92 12,953 Source: Electoral Commission Where are the seats that could turn the election?
In more than one in five seats there were so many non-voters they outnumbered the people who voted for the winning MP in 2017. So, where could non-voters have had the most impact?
In some areas more than four out of 10 voters stayed away altogether. But in some places, even if every single non-voter on the register went to the polls, the outcome still wouldn’t change. There were 99 of these seats in 2017, and their number has been increasing.
Among them is Islington North, where Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is the local MP. In 2017, 40,086 people voted for him , ahead of just 6,871 for the Conservative candidate in second place, giving Mr Corbyn a majority of 33,215. He increased his share of the vote by 12.7% and was safe from any change of heart by the 20,184 people who did not vote at all. Where are the seats that could turn the election?
Who is standing in your area?
Who should I vote for? Election policy guide
‘Sick of Brexit news’
In West Bromwich West, almost half of registered voters did not turn out at the last general election. And in the town of Wednesbury, some people are not swayed by their untapped power. BBC I just don’t believe anything any of them say. Danielle Robbins
Trainee retail manager Trainee retail manager Danielle Robbins, aged 39, said: "The news is all just about Brexit, every single day. I didn’t watch the news for two years because that was all that people talked about and then when I did start watching again, they were still going on about it." BBC Politicians are just saying things to make themselves sound good Safiya Elwin
Mother and fashion student Safiya Elwin, a 32-year-old fashion student and mother of seven, said: "They just want votes off people and then we don’t matter any more.
"Politicians just do things according to their own plans and predictions."
If people could vote directly for their leader, in the way the USA elects its president, she might be more inspired.
"That would at least give us more of say." What puts off people from voting?
Everyone will have their own reasons.
"Some people feel it’s pointless as they are just one out of tens of thousands of voters in their constituency. There’s a sense of powerlessness to it, that this isn’t going to help them get their voice heard," says psychologist Helen Haste, emeritus professor at the University of Bath. She’s researched civic participation among young people.
"A lot of people don’t feel a particularly strong duty to vote, while some feel that as citizens it is their obligation to. Others see it as a privilege."
If people feel strongly about an issue and know that the result could have an effect, they are more likely to vote, says Prof Haste.
The Brexit referendum in 2016 bucked the trend: turnout was 72.2% , as opposed to 69% in the 2017 general election and 66.2% in the 2015 election . Are young people registering to vote?
They are. More than a million of those who have registered to vote since September are under 25. They made up almost a third of those signing up for a polling card. What about me? Am I registered to vote?
Every year each household is sent a form to check that the voter registration records are up to date.
It lists everyone of voting age the local council is aware of living at the property.
However, adding a name to the form does not register the person to vote. Each person has to register individually for a ballot paper. Our guide on how to register to vote
What do all the terms mean?
– Choose a term from the list –
Women in tribal colours attend a Bougainville reconciliation ceremony in November An island group that’s part of Papua New Guinea is about to vote on independence. And, if the poll goes as expected, Bougainville could become the world’s next country.
The islands’ history includes colonial exploitation, attempts at independence, a nine-year war and a gradual peace process.
On Saturday, a new chapter will be written, when 207,000 people begin voting on whether they want greater autonomy or independence.
Observers expect up to three-quarters to opt for independence – but the poll will just be a first step. Why independence?
The islands were named after an 18th Century French explorer and became part of a German colony, German New Guinea, at the end of the 19th Century.
During World War One, Australia took control and remained in charge until 1975 (with a brief period of Japanese control during World War Two).
While under colonial control, Bougainville – current population 300,000 – was always an outpost.
The Germans’ first administrative centre was not established until 1905 – 21 years after their rule began.
And, according to referendum literature , "some parts of mountainous central and northern Bougainville had little contact with either churches or the colonial regime until after World War Two". Getty
Bougainville timeline 1975 province of newly independent PNG
1988 separatist war with PNG breaks out
1997 international mediation ends war
2000 peace agreement sets 2020 deadline for independence poll
2019 Bougainville independence referendum
When Papua New Guinea got independence in 1975, Bougainville became a province, even though there was little enthusiasm for it.
In fact, there was even a declaration of independence shortly before PNG was formed – an attempt to create the "Republic of the North Solomons". However it was ignored by both Australia and PNG.
The declaration was the manifestation of a Bougainville identity which developed during the 20th Century. Initially a response to plantation colonialism, it developed thanks to perceived racism and economic exploitation.
The primary marker of that identity was dark skin colour – most Bougainvilleans have darker skin than most, though not all, people from elsewhere in PNG.
After the failed independence declaration, discontent simmered and in 1988 a nine-year separatist war began.
Estimates of the number of people killed range from 4,000 to 20,000 – between 3 and 13% of the islands’ population at the star of the war.
The fighting came to an end in 1997 with help from international mediators. The result was the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA), the creation in 2005 of the Autonomous Bougainville Government , and the promise of a non-binding referendum on independence. The Bougainville war ended in 1997 after international mediation So what options are there?
On the ballot, people will have two options: greater autonomy or independence.
The expectation is that the province will vote in favour of independence – but it’s not a given, so there are three possible outcomes: People vote for more autonomy, turning down the independence option. In that case, Bougainville would stay part of PNG and details would be worked out
People vote for independence and PNG accepts the vote. The province would then transition to become a sovereign country
People vote for independence but PNG does not accept the outcome or tries to delay any further steps. This might lead to a new crisis and fresh conflict
Voting will be held between 23 November and 7 December and results are expected later in December.
The Referendum Commission is headed by former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who helped to negotiate 1998 Good Friday Agreement as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.
"There is a palpable pride that the eyes of the world are watching," Mr Ahern wrote this week. "I believe the process will be a credible one, free of the fear and intimidation once wrought by weapons of war." A poster encouraging Bougainvilleans to register to vote – English is widely spoke on the island, while pidgin English is the main language What does Papua New Guinea say?
The central government has previously withheld funding for the referendum process, and its preference is for the region to remain within the country.
In October, new Prime Minister James Marape reiterated that the vote was non-binding , and that the result would be "deliberated upon" by the governments of PNG and Bougainville.
So why does PNG want Bougainville to stay?
For one, Bougainville is rich in natural resources. While the war brought much of the copper and gold mining operations to a halt, the province used to be one of PNG’s richest before the war.
The other worry is that it might set a precedent. If Bougainville gets independence, other PNG provinces (there are more than 20) could also up their demands for greater autonomy – or possibly secession. Is Bougainville ready for independence?
The new country – should it happen – would be small, with a land mass of less than 10,000 square kilometres (slightly larger than Cyprus, and slightly smaller than Lebanon).
Likewise, its population would be one of the world’s smallest – slightly smaller than Pacific neighbour Vanuatu, and slightly bigger than Barbados.
But according to research by Australia’s Lowy Institute, Bougainville achieving self-reliance would at best be years away. The country is rich in natural resources – especially copper, which has been extracted on large scale since the 1960s under Australian administration.
But mining operations have been crippled by the war – and the distribution of revenue was one of the factors behind the conflict.
One estimate cited by the Lowy Institute says Bougainville would only have 56% of the revenue needed to be self-reliant. What are other countries doing?
Australia, the closest wealthy country, is Bougainville’s biggest donor and was involved in the mediation that ended the fighting.
It says it will accept "any settlement negotiated", but most Bougainvilleans believe that Australia opposes independence.
From further afield, the US and China are also watching the developments closely.
China is thought to already have sent a delegation to look at investing in Bougainville, including a new port. Beijing has recently increased its efforts to boost ties with island nations in the Pacific, establishing diplomatic ties with the Solomon Islands and Kiribati .
Meanwhile, the US – along with Australia, New Zealand, and Japan – have provided funds to help with the referendum.