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Children and bereavement

The following information could help if your child has lost or is about to lose someone, such as a family member or friend.

If your child is about to lose someone

If a child has a loved one, such as a friend or family member who's going to die, they can benefit from special support.

A child's stress level is often at its highest before bereavement because of fear and the unknown.

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

The YoungMinds website has more information on counselling services for children and young people.

Making a memory box

If you're a parent and you know you're going to die, you could make a memory box to give to your child or make one together.

A memory box contains 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 someone

Talk about the person who has died

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

Direct, honest and open communication is more helpful than trying to protect your child by hiding the truth. If you exclude them from family ceremonies and services after someone has died it could make them feel excluded.

This can also help your child be open about their own feelings and avoid confusion about what has happened. It may be helpful to talk as a family, perhaps with your child, about how to include them in any events that celebrate or say goodbye to the person who has died.

It's important for them to have someone with whom they can talk about that person and share their emotions. This could be through photos, games, memory boxes or stories.

Over time, children may start to talk more about their loss at different times and in different ways. Young children may start talking about death or including it in their play, but this is normal and is a way for them to make sense of what has happened.

Further support for your child

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

These include:

You can also find out more about children and bereavement from the Childhood Bereavement Network

Make a memory box

If the person who's died did not leave a memory box, you could make 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

Don’t forget to look after yourself

It’s important to make sure you’re also getting the support you need after a loss. This can also help you to better support your child.

Read more about getting help with grief after bereavement or loss.

Page last reviewed: 15 January 2020
Next review due: 15 January 2023