Talking to children and young people about grief

Talking to Children and Young People about Grief

Children and young people may experience and express grief in different ways. Our expert Just ‘B’ team offer tips and advice if you are supporting a young person affected by bereavement:

  • Honesty is the best policy.

It is important to tell children what is happening as much as possible. It is natural to feel that we want to protect children from difficult and upsetting things, but research and experience has taught us that hiding information about a death of a significant person is damaging.

  • If we are not honest, children will start imagining things.

This can be very frightening and adds to the feeling that everything is out of control. Children may also feel that they have caused a problem, or are in some way to be blamed for the death of someone.

  • If we are not honest, children and young people may lose trust in an adult.

This may be very difficult to regain in the future, and can impact upon their grieving process.

  • Information may need to be repeated again and again.

It may be difficult for a child or young person to believe that someone is dead, so the story of their death may need to be repeated. Young children in particular will struggle with the concept of death due to their development. It can be painful for adults to repeat the information, but it is important to do so.

Keep in mind that….

  • When you give information do not expect a reply straight away.
  • Children and young people may try to protect themselves from the feelings that are overwhelming, for example, by changing the subject, or avoiding all it together.
  • All the reactions arise because the child or young person is experiencing feelings that are too big for them to understand or to be able to deal with without the help from a caring adult.
  • Additionally, it is important to remember that children may not grieve in the same way we might expect and can still play and be happy even if others around them are upset.