Talking about death and grieving
Please look at the resources we have included below from charities that are experts in supporting children who have experienced a bereavement .
Some general principles to follow when you talk to bereaved children are:
- Listen and validate – children often don't recognise their feelings as grief. Let them know that whatever they're feeling is normal and okay
- Acknowledge their fears – children's fears, no matter how irrational, are real and we can't take them away. Just knowing that someone they trust is listening to them is helpful
- Reassure, but only as much as you can do so honestly – for example, a child whose family member has died from COVID-19 will quite rationally be afraid of other family members dying. It's unhelpful to try to calm a child's fears by saying that won't happen when it already has, and it can diminish the child's trust in you. Rather, acknowledge the possibility but counter with facts about how rare this is
- Check their understanding – children can be very literal, and what might seem obvious to us may not be so clear to them. As you talk to them, regularly check that they understand what you've said
- Share your own feelings – it's okay to let children know that you're also sad and upset. It can be reassuring that what they're feeling is normal
Winston’s Wish was the UK’s first childhood bereavement charity. We have been supporting bereaved children since 1992 and we continue to lead the way in providing specialist child bereavement support services across the UK. This includes in-depth therapeutic support in individual, group and residential settings, as well as a Freephone National Helpline, training for professionals and specialist publications including their latest free book , Lost for Words which we have included below.