6 tips on how to support a grieving child or young person

The sad news of Bowelbabe Dame Deborah James’s death may prompt us to think about our own feelings or concerns about grief and bereavement.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve and everyone’s experience is unique. From talking about feelings to finding ways to remember, here are six tips on how to support grieving children and young people.

1. Let them know it’s ok to talk

Don’t shy away from asking children and young people how they’re feeling and what is going on inside for them. You may feel anxious about not knowing how to respond, but it’s ok to just listen when you don’t know what to say.

Children can often be worried about telling an adult about their feelings in case they upset them. So, starting the conversation can help children know that it’s ok to talk.

2. Understand how children grieve

Don’t be surprised if their response is totally different, every time you ask a grieving child or young person how they are feeling. From sadness, anger and confusion to laughing and joking, grief brings a whole range of feelings. Younger children often ‘puddle jump’ in and out of different feelings. So one moment they might be very upset and the next wanting to watch their favourite TV show.

3. Let them ask questions

Children and young people may ask questions that are difficult to answer. Sometimes, all they need to hear is “I’m feeling sad too” or “it’s normal to be sad”.

4. Try and keep to a routine

Often, your world is turned upside after a bereavement and this can be very difficult. It can help to try and maintain a level of normality in the child or young person’s life. This could be something simple like a regular night-time routine which could help them feel safe and secure.

5. Talk about your feelings

Let the child or young person know how you’re feeling too. Children look to adults to learn how to express their feelings. Talking about your feelings may help a child further understand their own feelings and know that it’s ok not to be ok.

6. Help them remember the person who died

Planning activities in memory of their important person can help the young person explore and revisit their own memories.

Where to get support

If you are a bereaved young person (aged 0-25) or you are supporting a child or young person who is struggling with their grief, please call our Freephone Helpline team on 08088 020 021 or email ask@winstonswish.org.

If you need urgent support, the Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger is available 24/7 for free, confidential support in a crisis. Text WW to 85258.

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