Helping your child deal with the loss of a loved one

The loss of a loved one can be a confusing and emotional experience for children. This guidance can help you navigate this difficult time together. You will also find links to specialist services.

Dealing with loss
It’s important for you and your children to acknowledge the loss of a loved one. Unacknowledged losses can build up stresses, and come out in other less healthy ways. We can end up getting snappy, unable to focus and out of sorts when we are pushing feelings away.

The more we can do acknowledge loss and validate the range of feelings we will all have at different times, the more we can make sense of the experiences we are facing.

Make some space for your feelings
We can tend to want to ‘get rid’ of painful feelings, believing it is better to power through, or to try and cheer ourselves up. Staying with emotional pain and sadness can be uncomfortable.

When supporting others who are experiencing loss we might try to point them towards the positive by saying, “Don’t be sad about missing out on your end of term play, just think about all the nice things we can do with the time instead”.

Acknowledging how they are feeling might help, phrasing it like “I can see how disappointed you are, you were looking forward to that and had worked so hard on learning your lines. I am sorry it has to be this way” can help show your understanding.

Stages of grief
There are known to be five stages to the grief process:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

These don’t go one way and people can move in and out of the different feelings at different times. It is important to acknowledge both our similarities and our differences as part of this process.

For example, one member of the family might want to keep busy, while another will want to watch TV and not think about it. One child will seek comfort and reassurance while another will want to spend time on their own, or talking to friends.

Previous experience will affect how you manage your feelings
Those who have experienced traumatic losses in the past are likely to find it even more difficult to cope.

Children who have been in care, those who have experienced a serious illness, or bereavement and those who have been caught between warring parents are just some who may find the unpredictability and the loss of control more difficult. They will need compassion and care to manage their feelings.

Make time for now
In this time of uncertainty, we might spend a great deal of time thinking about the future and worry about losses that haven’t yet happened. It can quickly mount up as thoughts go round and round in our heads.

It can help to set aside some time for worrying, and also to make time for just being in the moment and giving yourself a break to enjoy something right now.

Reconnecting with things that calm us, like settling down with a good film, having a hot bath, sitting in the garden or doing a puzzle are all good ways to take some time away from worries about these possible futures.

Useful contacts for parents:
Family Action – providing support for adult members of families via telephone, text, email and webchat on their FAMILYLINE

Family Lives – free and confidential helpline for parents in England & Wales 

Useful contacts for Grandparents:

Bereavement support:
Cruse Bereavement Care Freephone National Helpline is staffed by trained bereavement volunteers, who offer emotional support to anyone affected by bereavement.

Offering a listening ear and emotional support to anyone who has lost someone they love, or been affected by a bereavement. All calls are answered by trained Cruse volunteers.

0808 808 1677

Winston’s Wish, for adults caring for a bereaved child or young person: 08452 03 04 05 9-5pm Monday- Friday

Muslim Bereavement Support: 020 3468 7333 /  

Grief Encounter have a helpline and their counsellors offer one to one support for children.

This content has been made available from the Home-Start UK website