What do we tell the children?

Whatever our age, bereavement can be a confusing and frightening time.​

Image by Benjamin Manley

Following a bereavement our emotions can feel difficult to control or express an our reactions can be unpredictable. Our lives can feel as though they are turned upside down, there can be a lot of change and our every-day routines feel disrupted or even abandoned altogether.

 With so much going on many of us can worry that our reactions are not normal. This is even more the case when we have children and young people to care for too. We feel powerless to help them.


​Even though grief is unique to each person many reactions are common to all bereaved people - they are the signs that tell us and others that we are grieving.


​When someone dies we can be totally unprepared to know how to best help our children and young people. This is a very distressing time and our natural desire is to try to protect them from unnecessary suffering. Although we mean well, this can sometimes cause greater difficulties later. These pages will give you information to help you understand how grief affects them and how you can help.


In these difficult times, things often seem to move quickly and it can be hard to know where to turn. 

We have put together some information that may help.

Free guides for bereaved families

A series of guides have been created to help support people that have lost a loved one to coronavirus, or they have died during lockdown because of other reasons.

There are 3 bereavement guides available:


All of the guides are free to download. Click on the titles to get your copy.

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What can help children and young people to grieve well?

Keep it simple 

Stick to simple, clear explanations and answers to their questions, appropriate for their level of understanding - only answer the question they ask.


Be honest 

Be honest about what has happened and what will happen next


Help them understand

Particularly to understand the grieving rituals such as funerals and memorials


Be patient

Behaviour may change or be challenging. Remember, everybody grieves differently and at their own pace.



Let them know it's ok to express their emotions. Let them know their feelings will change over time.



Familiar routines can help a child to feel safe and secure, particularly if there is a lot of change going on around them.



Help them to find ways to remember the person who died.

Useful resources

There are lots of books and websites which can offer useful new perspectives on grief & bereavement.

Here are a few links to some resources you may find helpful.

Homework Help

It may feel natural to try to shield children with SEND from complex emotions such as grief. However, we know that for all children and young people, not being included, or having information about the death of someone close kept from them can lead to feelings of fear and isolation. Particularly, when the death will lead to changes in a young person's life such as moving home or school. 


As we have said, everyone's grief is unique to them and this is also true of children and young people with SEND.  It is important to share the news of the death of someone close to the young person in a way they can understand and to give them time and a safe, supportive space to process  and express their feelings. 

It can also be helpful to include your child in any memorial activities or rituals such as sending cards or making memory boxes, if that feels appropriate. 

Both Winston's Wish and Child Bereavement UK have detailed resources for parents/carers and schools to support children and young people with SEND. 

Supporting children with special educational needs and disabilties