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Supporting a bereaved child or young person

Supporting a bereaved child or young person can be an incredibly daunting task, especially when you’re grieving yourself. It’s so hard to know what to say or do. And it can feel like a lot of pressure at a really difficult time.

This page will touch on how to support your bereaved child or young person. And it will point you in the direction of other organisations who can offer further guidance. 

On this page, we’ll cover:  

a woman sitting on a sofa supporting a bereaved child, who is sitting next to her

How will my child experience grief?

Everybody grieves in their own way and children are no different. 

Younger children can often dip in and out of grief. This is called “puddle jumping’. They can be very sad for a while and then behave as if nothing has happened. This can appear as if they have not been affected by the death. But it’s a way of protecting themselves from overwhelming and difficult feelings. 

Older children will often grieve in a more adult way. Children learn from their parents’ reactions to loss, so it’s good to show your feelings in front of them. This gives them permission to display their own grief. 

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Talking to a bereaved child

You may want to protect your child from the pain of talking about a loved one dying, but it’s better if you’re as open and honest as you can be. Children are often very aware of what’s happening around them, but may not understand, so it’s important to tell them about their loved one dying as soon as you can. 

It can be helpful to create a safe space for them to ask questions about death. Make sure they feel comfortable and know there’s no time pressure, so they can ask as many questions as they need to.  

Although it can be tempting to use other words for death like ‘lost’ or ‘passed away’, this can sometimes cause confusion for the child. Specifically talking about death can be much clearer and help avoid any misunderstandings.

Child Bereavement UK have some helpful resources on their website that go into detail on how to have these conversations. The page we linked to below includes a list of tips as well as a short video on how to explain when someone has died.

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Talking to the school

Talking to your child’s school or college can be a good first step in making sure they get the support they need. It’s important that you keep the school updated on what’s going on so they can make sure your child’s education isn’t affected. 

Getting back to school, when the time is right, can help bring some normalcy back for your child so it’s important the school are prepared and have everything in place that they might need.   

You might want to direct the school to our Bereavement Resources for Schools page on our website. 

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Further resources

  • Child Bereavement UK – CBUK offer lots of invaluable resources. They support children and young people (up to the age of 25) when someone important to them has died or is not expected to live, and parents and the wider family when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying.
  • Winston’s Wish – Supporting children and young people up to the age of 25, Winston’s Wish has a wealth of knowledge around children who are bereaved. They offer one to one sessions for children with one of their Bereavement Support Workers as well as counselling. 
  • Hope Again – An extension of ‘Cruse’ which specifically supports young bereaved people. They offer an email service where young people can vent and talk about their grief as well as many other useful resources.
  • Cruse Bereavement Support do offer free counselling but this is dependent on what’s available in your local area. The best way to find out what’s available near you is to call on 0808 808 1677.  

If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
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