Helping children cope with bereavement

If a loved one is dying or has died, you may be worried about talking to your child about death in case you frighten them. But children need to talk about how they are feeling, and may want to know why or how the person died and where they are now. Some children may prefer to talk to their friends or people outside their immediate family.

How to tell your child someone has died?

  • Give your child the facts about how the person died in a way they will understand.
  • Use clear words to describe death. Avoid using terms for it like "they have gone to sleep", as this could make your child afraid of going to sleep, or make them think someone will wake up and come back.
  • Give them comfort and be prepared to repeat what you said, death can be hard to understand for a child

The following video from Child Bereavement UK has further advice on how to tell a child that someone has died.

Different ways your child may react to grief

Children's reactions to grief can be very strong. They may laugh, cry, or try to help you in some way. As they may find it hard to describe or understand how they feel, they could:

  • become angry or aggressive
  • have tantrums
  • become disruptive at school
  • feel guilty
  • turn to drugs or alcohol
  • self-harm.

It may help for your child to understand the concept of grief. The following clip from Winston's Wish has advice that might help a child understand how grief can affect them in different ways at different points in their life following a bereavement.

What else you can do to help?

  • Try to keep to your normal routine.
  • Be honest, truthful and answer questions they have, in a way appropriate to your child's age.
  • Give your child time to grieve.
  • Talk to your child and include them in what is going on.
  • Encourage your child to share how they are feeling.

The following two video clips give further advice on how to talk to and support a child who is grieving.

Where to find support and advice?

There are many local and national charities and services who can support children who have experienced a bereavement. Some of these can be found in the shortlist below:

Local support for children who know someone who has died

Did you find this information helpful?

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