Helping Children who are Grieving


■ Be available to listen.  If you are struggling with your own feelings,  try to have other supportive adults around who your child can talk to,  if needed.

■ Be a good role model.  Try to avoid hiding your grief from your child.

■ Realize that a child’s grief may be difficult to recognize.  Feelings may be expressed more in behavior than in words or tears.  Other common physical changes you may notice in a grieving child are:

            Tiredness, lack of energy                                       Change in appetite

Tightness in throat                                                   Feeling short of breath

Loss of muscular strength                                     Stomach pain;  Headaches

General nervousness or trembling                      Skin Rashes

Difficulty in sleeping or sleeping more than usual

■ Provide opportunities for children to express their feelings of grief. 

For example:  read a children’s book about loss;  make a memory collage;  and don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation about the person/animal who has died.

■ Be aware of your own personal issues relating to death and loss and make sure you are receiving whatever support you need.

■ Continue to provide structure, routine, and limits. It provides an important sense of security.

■ Use age-appropriate language and images.  Young children understand concrete, specific explanations much better than abstract concepts.  For example, “He passed away,” or, “the vet put Rusty to sleep” are statements which can be quite confusing to a child.

■ Answer what is asked.  Let the child be in charge of what s/he is ready to hear as children can only manage bits and pieces at a time.

■ Correct faulty thinking (for example a child may blame him or herself for the death or may worry about more deaths occurring).  Try to tell the truth when asked “why…?”  Offer age-appropriate information about the death. 


**This information was adapted from resource material provided by the Langley Hospice Society


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