Children, Young People & Grief

When children or young people experience a death, their parents, caregivers and teachers are often concerned about how best to support and meet their needs.

Children and young people also experience grief in a variety of ways depending on their age, stage of development, personality, and past experiences of loss.

Some common reactions that may affect them include:

Feelings of:

  • Shock, disbelief that the person has died.

  • Sadness

  • Fear

  • Guilt

  • Anger

  • Anxiety about the future

  • Preoccupation with death and wanting details.

Younger children may ask the same questions repetitively over a period of time. Continue to answer simply and honestly.

Social:

  • Clinging to remaining family members - especially in younger children

  • Disruptive behaviours - fighting, arguing, ignoring requests

  • Reluctant to go to school

  • Withdrawal from social activities

  • Mood swings

Physical:

  • Changes to sleep patterns and appetite

  • Headaches, tiredness, nausea, "sore tummies"

  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things

Caring For Children & Young People

Below are some suggestions that you may find helpful in caring for children and young people.

  • A good place to start is asking them what they know. Talk openly and honestly with them about what has happened in an age appropriate way e.g. "Grandma has died because because her body stopped working properly".

  • Listen. They may not want to talk straight away but continue to check in case they change their mind.

  • Try to include children in the family's grief experience e.g. attending the funeral if they wish. If they choose to attend, prepare them as much as possible beforehand so they know what to expect. Older children and young people may want to have a more active part in the service.

  • Reassure them that they will continue to be cared for and loved.

  • Children, especially younger ones, express many of their emotions through behaviour and play. They may find drawing, painting, storytelling, even making a memory box with photos and letters, helpful.

  • Discuss their support needs with their school teachers.

  • Maintain routine as much as possible e.g. sports, hobbies, contact with friends.

  • Reassure them that it is okay to grieve differently to other family members.

It is important to take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally, so you can support your children. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

With good information, love and support, children and young people can learn to understand and cope with their grief. However, if you feel that they may need further assistance or support, don't hesitate to see your local doctor who may talk to you about support from other health professionals e.g. school counsellor, psychologist,