Children in Grief

Death is possibly the most difficult event for children to understand and respond to. Nothing has prepared them for death or a funeral, and depending on their age and stage of conceptual development it may be literally impossible to take in.

Each child will grieve differently, at different times and in different ways. Often the reality (and permanence) of the death isn’t realised until the child develops and grows older. It is not unusual – as an example – for a three year old to appear to take a death ‘in their stride’ and then some years later show signs of grief when they come to understand concepts such as time and ‘forever’.

As adults we can assist young ones by speaking simply, openly and factually about the issues. Giving them permission to ask questions and explaining what is going on puts a secure boundary around their imagination. Give them things to do like making a memory box or memory garden. Allow them to share your feelings as well as share their own so they learn that they are normal.

Also join them in reading or looking at picture books which cover the topics. There are many beautifully illustrated and sensitively written books we would recommend that could be shared with children even before they experience the death of someone they are close to. As with any life experience, if we can discuss death and learn about it before being confronted with its reality we are much better equipped, and can experience less anxiety and fear.

We are pleased to offer you a list of recommended reading for young children on loss and grief under the Books and Recommended Reading link. This list will be regularly updated.

For more information about the responses of children and how to best assist them download our brochure ‘Children in Grief’.