Children and bereavement

Where to get support if a child has lost a loved one or has a loved one who is dying.

The following information could help if your child has lost a loved one or if a loved one is dying.

If your child has a loved one who's dying

If a child has a loved one who is going to die, they can benefit from special support.

Counselling before the loved one dies

Sarah Smith, bereavement counsellor at London's Trinity Hospice, says: "Hospices offer pre-bereavement care to help patients and their family in the run-up to the end of life.

"We especially encourage this for children because children's stress levels are at their highest before bereavement because of fear and the unknown."

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

Making a memory box with the child

If you're a parent and you know you're going to die, Sarah suggests thinking about making a memory box to give to your child, or making one together.

This is a box containing 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 a child has lost a loved one

Talk about the person who has died

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

"Sharing and talking about emotions and about the person is important, especially for children," says Sarah.

"If they have lost a loved one, it's important to have someone with whom they can talk about that person. It could be through photos, games, memory boxes or stories."

There are also bereavement charities that offer helplines, email support, and online communities and message boards for children.

These include:

Make a memory box

If the person who has died didn't leave a memory box, Sarah suggests making 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

Find out more about children and bereavement on the Childhood Bereavement Network.

Child Bereavement UK has useful information sheets about children and bereavement, including how children grieve and children's understanding of death at different ages.

The Cruse Bereavement Care helpline, for adults as well as young people, is on 0808 808 1677.

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