Helping your child through bereavement

The following information could help if your child has lost or is about to lose someone, such as a family member or friend.

Every experience of living with grief is unique, children and young people learn to cope with learning about illness or the death of someone important in their own way.

It may be helpful to consider the following when supporting the child you care for.

  • To share clear, honest and age-appropriate information
  • Reassurance that they are not to blame and that different feelings are OK
  • Try to keep normal routines and reassure by demonstrating that important adults are there for them.
  • Taking time to talk about what has happened, ask questions and create memories.
  • Being listened to and given time to share their emotions and grieve in their own way (Child Bereavement UK)

Don't forget to look after yourself

It’s important to make sure you’re also getting the support you need after a loss. This can also help you to better support your child.

Read more on about getting help with grief after bereavement or loss.

If a child has a loved one, such as a friend or family member who's going to die, they can benefit from special support.  A child's stress level is often at its highest before bereavement because of fear and the unknown.

Confronting the nature of terminal illness with children can be very difficult, but in doing so it can prepare children for the death of a loved one so that it is not experienced as a sudden shock or they feel they are to blame.

For more information on how to talk to your child about a terminal illness please follow this link: Child Bereavement UK

Pre-bereavement counselling gives a child a chance to think and talk about their feelings and share their worries.

The YoungMinds website has more information on counselling services for children and young people.

Talk about the person who has died

During bereavement, it can help a child to talk about the person who's died, whether it was a grandparent, parent, brother, sister or friend.

Direct, honest and open communication is more helpful than trying to protect your child by hiding the truth. If you exclude them from family ceremonies and services after someone has died it could make them feel excluded.

This can also help your child be open about their own feelings and avoid confusion about what has happened. It may be helpful to talk as a family, perhaps with your child, about how to include them in any events that celebrate or say goodbye to the person who has died.

It's important for them to have someone with whom they can talk about that person and share their emotions. This could be through photos, games, memory boxes or stories.

Over time, children may start to talk more about their loss at different times and in different ways. Young children may start talking about death or including it in their play, but this is normal and is a way for them to make sense of what has happened.

If you're a parent and you know you're going to die, you could make a memory box to give to your child or make one together.

A memory box contains things that remind you both of your time together. It can provide an important link between you and your child once you've gone.

Macmillan Cancer Support has information about making a memory box.

If the person who's died did not leave a memory box, you could make one with your child.

It can include:

  • gifts
  • shells collected on the beach
  • memories written on a card
  • anything that makes the child feel connected to that person

Bereavement Care (adult & children) 

Tel: 020 8427 5720

Trained volunteers to support adults and children in the London Boroughs of Harrow and Hillingdon. 

Harlington Hospice Bereavement Service (adult)

Tel: 0300 3653300

Counselling available to any adults who have experienced a bereavement.

Harlington Hospice child and adolescent bereavement service

Tel: 0208 759 0453 

Counselling available to bereaved children age 4-17 years. 

Halo Children’s Foundation

Tel: 07903 709622

CNWL Talking Therapies Service Hillingdon (adult)

Tel: 01895 206800

Psychological therapies. Self-referral accepted via the website for adults who are registered with a Hillingdon GP. Includes bereavement counselling and specialist therapies for women and men who have lost a baby in the perinatal period.