Children and young people grieve just as much as adults but they show it in different ways. They learn how to grieve by copying the responses of the adults around them and rely on adults to provide them with the support they need in their grief. Try to keep to normal routines which will help them feel safe, and keep them informed about plans for the days ahead. Tell them who will take them to school or activities. If you need to leave them, tell them when you will be home, or who will be looking after them. Include them in simple decision-making that affects them. If the person who died was ill, address any fears about the illness (for example that it is not catching), and reassure them that you are not ill and not leaving them.
Bereavement can be overwhelming and can bring huge changes, alongside other challenges that young people face as they grow up. They may want to forget or deny the death or how strongly they feel. They may feel ‘what’s the point?’ with school or social activities. Some young people may be impulsive or take risks, in an attempt to get back some control in a life that for them currently feels very out of control. Children and young people have a limited ability to put feelings and thoughts into words and tend to show feelings with behaviours rather than words. Reactions will vary greatly as children absorb and process information in different ways at different ages.
What helps grieving children and young people.
Every child is unique and will cope with the death of someone important in their own way. There is no magic formula but things that help include:
Clear, honest and age-appropriate information.
Reassurance that they are not to blame and that different feelings are OK.
Normal routines and a clear demonstration that important adults are there for them.
Time to talk about what has happened, ask questions and build memories.
Being listened to and given time to grieve in their own way.
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Nottingham City Hospital Library
Offers a range of on-line resources, including for bereavement.
A charity supporting children and young people who are dealing with grief.
Cruse Bereavement Care
Offer support and help to those who are grieving, following the death of someone close
Children's Bereavement Centre
A uniquely special centre, where children, young people and their families who are affected by the death or terminal illness of someone close, can access the specialist support and guidance they need.
The following books are recommended to help open up discussions about bereavement.
All available from on-line retailers.