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Helping Children with Grief and Loss

Whether it has been on tv or story books, young children have an understanding of death.

It is however, the permanence of this that may become more difficult for them to understand. It is then the confusion and pain which ensues that parent’s are unable to take away, but they are able to help teach their children to cope with in healthy ways.

Children and adults will experience the loss of a loved one and respond to this in very different ways. While an adult may experience low mood for extended periods of time, and show their grief through crying, children may cry one moment and then begin playing the next. This is all very normal for a child. It is also completely natural for children to become angry, sad, experience anxiety, act and speak younger than their age, or very young children may have toileting accidents.

Managing the loss of a grandparent

For many young people the death of a grandparent will be one of their first experiences of loss. This can also bring up many worries about the health and safety of their parents. It is important to share that you think you will live for a long time yet and be emotionally supportive of their worries and concerns.

Managing the death of a pet

The loss of a pet is another common early childhood experiences and another first exposure to death. Often the bond that a child forms with a pet is very strong and the loss of this animal is extremely upsetting. Children will need time to grieve this loss and does provide an opportunity to work through these feelings and develop some healthy coping skills. Following the grieving period a child may then be ready to welcome another pet into the family.

What else can parents do?

· Help your child to express their feelings – reading story books about loss, sharing stories and looking at phots of the loved one may help

· Express your own sadness – share your feelings and reassure your child that it is OK to have strong feelings about the loss

· Use direct and age appropriate language

· Maintain routines as this provides a sense of security

If you are interested in discussing any of the points further or would like to hear about a particular topic, we would be more than happy to hear from you. Feel free to send an email to and we will answer any questions you may have.

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