How can I help my child when someone dies?

Coping with the death of a loved one is hard. If you have a child, you may feel unsure on the best way to support them through grief.

Be open about emotions

Let your child know that’s it’s OK to feel what they’re feeling. It’s fine to be angry, upset, or to cry.

They may have questions about what’s happening. Be honest with them about the situation and how you’re feeling. You will be going through your own grief, and they are going to see that. Make sure they know they can talk to you.

Share stories about grief

Some books you can share with your child include:

Swap positive memories

Remember experiences you had with the person who has passed away. Take time to celebrate their life. You might share stories, favourite things about them, or even the things you will miss most now they’re gone.

You could also make memory box. Decorate an old shoe box and let your child choose objects that spark memories to put inside. This might be:

  • Photos and drawings.
  • An item of the person’s clothing.
  • Some of their perfume or aftershave.
  • Cards they sent you.
  • Tickets from events that you went to together.

Your child can go back to these at times when they need comforting.

Look after your health

Make sure you and your child are getting enough sleep, exercise and healthy food. Looking after your physical health will help you all cope with your emotions too.

Call on friends and family to offer support. They might want to visit, call or send letters. This should help your child feel close to their extended family and support network.

If you can, get outside for fresh air. Or have a go at some mindful colouring or activities to ease anxious feelings.

Let yourself grieve

Look after your own wellbeing as well as your child’s. There are a range of emotions that come with grief – and they can come in any order. The stages of grief include shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

It may take a while to reach acceptance, but the process of grieving is important. Make some time for yourself. If you have a partner, ask them to give you some space when you need it.

Get extra support when you need it

Think about things you can do that help with anxious feelings, anger and sadness. Try and build these things into your day. If you or your child are struggling, there are people who can help. You could:

happy childhood icon

This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

More on talking about feelings

Talk to us

Talk about the issues that are worrying you with a parenting coach. Use our free and confidential online chat.