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Bereavements and loss

A child or young person I know needs help with...
Bereavement and Loss

If your child is experiencing bereavement, you might be too. Make sure you have support and ask for help if you need it. Talk to someone about your mental health.

Information about grief

Every time life changes, something is lost. Loss is therefore a big part of life and some common areas of loss that children and young people face include loss of:

  • Familiar environments e.g. moving house, moving school
  • Significant adults
  • Friendships
  • Opportunities
  • Experience of death

Different people experience loss in different ways, and this applies to the children and young people and the adults supporting them.

Grief is a normal reaction to loss and each of us will experience change in a unique way. We cannot assume we know how children and young people will experience grief based on our own experiences.

Keep these guiding principles in mind when supporting grieving children:

  1. All children and young people need support from trusted and familiar adults. Most children recover from grief with this support but some need additional help.
  2. Everyone’s experience of grief is different so it’s important to listen to the child and try to understand what they are feeling.
  3. Children and young people are curious and will want to understand what is happening by asking questions.
  4. Learning a little bit about the grieving process can help you to support the child.
  5. Good support leads to healthy grieving and helps build resilience for the future.

Tips for talking to a child about bereavement and loss

  • It’s good to talk and to listen; create opportunities to talk and listen to the child.
  • Use simple, clear language and be prepared to repeat topics and discussion, as needed. When people have strong emotions, it is often difficult for them to process information and to recall this in the future.
  • Encourage questions and remember that you do not have to have all the answers.
  • Apply the Goldilocks Principle i.e. tell the child what they want to know, not too much and not too little, using language the child can understand. Keep in mind the child’s age and ability when talking to them about loss, bereavement and change. Read more about this here
  • Recognise your own emotional response to the situation and reflect with friends and family on who is best placed to listen to the child.
  • Help the child with different activities to help them express their grief.

How to help children express grief:

  • Writing letters and poems.
  • Drawing pictures.
  • Making a display.
  • Sending off balloons.
  • Lighting a candle.
  • A memorial (for example, planting a tree).
  • Curating a memory box.

When might the child/young person need more support?

Make sure to give the child time and space to recover and lots of support. For many children, this well be enough. These are some things to think about if you think a child might need more support:

  • Are the child’s feelings linked to the loss preventing them from learning and taking part in daily life?
  • Is the child’s behaviour a concern to themselves and others?
  • Does the child seem excessively distressed and unhappy?
  • Does the child seem lethargic, depressed and hopeless?
  • Has the child asked for help and do they want more help?
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Related Topics

Here are some related mental health topics


Anger is an expression of emotions, it is usually underpinned by an emotion that your child is not able to express because they do not have the words, or because they don’t themselves understand how they feel.

Depression or Low Mood

Everyone has ups and downs. Sometimes you might feel a bit low, for lots of different reasons. People may say that they are feeling depressed when they are feeling down, but this does not always mean that they have depression.

Obsessive Thoughts

Obsessions are specific thoughts that are intense and intrusive. It can feel like your thoughts are taking over and controlling your behaviour. Compulsions are ritual behaviours that people use to try to reduce anxiety linked to intrusive thoughts.

Self Harm

Self-harm, or self-injury, describes a wide range of things people deliberately do to themselves that appear to cause some kind of physical hurt. It can be very hard for parents and carers to know about - or witness - self-harming behaviour in their children.