Losing a loved one can be challenging, but the pain and confusion can be particularly overwhelming for children.
These grief support helplines and free resources may provide valuable assistance to help you support children through grief.
Understanding Children's Grief
Children may go through a wide range of emotions during grief, including sadness, anger, confusion, guilt, and even relief.
They may also understand death differently at different ages:
- Babies: While they won’t understand death, babies will notice if mum or dad is absent. This can sometimes cause sleeping and eating difficulties, and more crying than usual.
- Toddlers: Toddlers will usually still not understand death, but will probably notice if mum or dad is absent. They may get angry about routine changes, have sleep problems or tummy aches, and may ask where the person has gone.
- Ages 2-5: From the age of 2, children may start to notice if other familiar people are absent, such as grandparents. As they get older, they will start to understand death but think that it’s reversible or that the person will eventually come back. They may react to a loved one passing away by being clingy, asking the same questions about death, and needing reassurance that it wasn’t their fault.
- Ages 5-10: It isn’t a hard and fast rule, but many children will understand death by the age of 7. They may become more irritable, have difficulty at school, and may withdraw into themselves. Some children will try to be brave, and worry about other loved one’s passing away.
- Teenagers: Older children and adolescents will likely have a good understanding of death, and its impact on their own life. They may feel very strong emotions, become distracted at school, and worry about developing the illness that the loved one died from.
There is no right or wrong way to process grief, so by acknowledging their emotions and providing reassurance that grieving is a natural response, you can help support children through grief.
One way that you can support children through grief is by helping them to create a memory box of the loved one that passed away. This can help them to remember the special memories they had with the person, and could include things like:
- Photographs and letters
- Newspaper clippings
- Perfume or soap that the loved one used
- Souvenirs, gifts or objects that remind them of their loved one
Resources For Grief Support For Children
There are several UK helplines and resources that offer specialised grief support for children and their families.
These resources can give you and your children a safe space to express emotions, seek guidance, and access support.
- Winston's Wish: 08088 020 021
Offering a free helpline for parents, carers and children, Winston’s Wish can help you access resources and advice to support children through grief.
- Child Bereavement UK: 0800 02 888 40
Supporting families and children, Child Bereavement UK can help you to comfort and guide children coping with the loss of a loved one.
- Grief Encounter: This charity provides various resources, including downloadable activity sheets, therapeutic stories, and guidance for parents and professionals.
- Legacy of Lives: We’re dedicated to supporting you and your family during this difficult time. On our website, you can access a range of free resources and guides to help you support children through grief.
Supporting Bereaved Children
If you’re a sole carer and facing a terminal diagnosis, pre-planning your funeral before the time comes can help alleviate stress for the children left behind during an already difficult and confusing time.
At Legacy of Lives, you can create a free funeral plan that covers all the details of your funeral service and lasting legacy, so you know that the children in your care will be looked after and supported through their loss.