The serious illness or death of someone close can have a huge impact on a child or young person. With the right support and information however, children and young people can be helped to understand what has happened and learn to move forward in a positive way. There are some simple ways which can make a real difference to you and to a grieving child.
It is important to remember that children will notice changes to their world, whether big or small and can sense when something is wrong and can tell when the adults around them are stressed or upset.
Children may be more able to deal with the truth and painful information than adults think they are. If they are not given information, they may overhear adults’ conversations and invent their own explanations, which can result in them feeling scared, worried, upset or to blame. They may react to the serious illness of someone close to them in a variety of ways. There may be changes in their behaviour or mood. Some children will express their worries and show how they are feeling, whereas others will keep their feelings inside.
Parents and carers can help their children to live with the serious illness of someone they love, by providing age appropriate information, with an opportunity to ask questions and allowing them to express their feelings and concerns.
It is important to make sure you have enough support for yourself. Inform the nursery/school/college of what has happened, as they may be able to offer support.
Children 0-11 years
- Try to continue with regular activities as far as possible.This can help children feel secure
- Children often see-saw in and out of grief, needing time to have fun as well as be sad
- Talk to the children using simple straightforward language
- Give the children as much information as they ask for
- Answer questions about death as honestly as you can
- Encourage children to talk about how they are feeling
- Children often need help retaining their memories – share memories and stories with them
- It is ok for your child to know that you are feeling sad.
Young people 12 years +
- Bereaved teenagers and young people often don’t want to talk to parents, preferring to talk to friends
- They may need to grieve privately and may be reluctant to display feelings openly
- They may take their lead from the way the adults around them behave
- Boys may channel their feelings into aggressive behaviour
- Girls may be more likely to talk and cry with friends
- Both boys and girls may show worrying risk-taking behaviour.
How we can help
Garden House Hospice Care offers individual support to children and young people who are bereaved or living with an adult with a serious illness. Our trained team of staff and volunteers offer support to children, in a safe, confidential environment, helping children to express their thoughts and feelings, using creative interventions. We also work collaboratively with Schools in North Hertfordshire and Stevenage and other external organisations, including Stand-by-me.
If you are unsure when to tell your children, or how to explain things to them, please contact Family Support at Garden House Hospice Care by calling 01462 679540. We will be able to discuss your concerns and help you to find ways to talk to your children about the situation. We understand that every child and circumstance is different and there is not a ‘one size fits all’
Books that we recommend.
To help you decide which books may be most suitable however, we have loosely grouped them into age order. Many of the books will overlap these age groups and may be helpful for children of all ages.
Pre-school Age and Upwards
- Missing Mummy by Rebecca Cole
- Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett
- Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute? by Elke and Alex Barber
- Little Meerkat’s Big Panic by Jane Evans
- Rabbityness by Jo Empson
- Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine by Diana Crossley
- The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
Primary School Age
- The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside
- Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley
- Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen
- The Secret C: Straight Talking About Cancer by Julie Stokes
- Beyond the Rough Rock: Supporting a Child Who Has Been Bereaved by Suicide by Di Stubbs
- In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
- Only One of Me – A Love Letter from Mum by Lisa Wells and Michelle Robinson
- The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
- It’s Not Fair! by Jane Foulkes and Wendy Picken
- No Matter What by Debi Gliori
- Laura’s Star by Klaus Baumgart
- Goodbye Mousie by Robie H Harris
- The Rainbow Feelings of Cancer by Chia Martin and Carrie Martin
- The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
- The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic
- Lifetimes by Bryan Mellonie
- Drop Dead by Babette Cole
Key Stage 2 and upwards
- Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian
Secondary School Age
- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
- My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Website support specifically for young people:
- Kooth An online counselling service for 11 to 25 year olds; it is a moderated site that offers peer support and counselling.
- Hope Again A Cruse Bereavement Care site that was set up by young people. Young people can email for support, and also read suggestions about helpful activities/strategies that young people who are bereaved may find helpful.
For bereaved young teenagers:
For bereaved younger children:
For young people who have a family member living with cancer:
Childline: 0800 1111
Bereavement Support Directory: https://ukhouseclearance.com/bereavement-counsellors-and-groups/
- Bereavement Trust Helpline - 0800 435 455 Providing the opportunity to talk to a trained volunteer about a bereavement of any kind.
- Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide - 0300 111 5065 Support for adults who have been bereaved by suicide.
- Grief Encounter - 020 8371 8455 Grief Encounter provide a chargeable E-Counselling service to adults who are supporting children through bereavement. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Good Grief Trust Online support and practical advice to people who have been bereaved.
For parents whose partner has died:
For parents whose child has died:
Get in touch
If you would like to speak to a member of our Family Support team, call 01462 679540.