Winston’s Wish Organisation (UK): Children and death part 1


Supporting a bereaved child or young person.

A guide for parents and carers

Whether sudden or expected, few life events have a greater impact on families than the death of a family member. The ways in which families make sense of,  and cope with their grief vary greatly. Everyone’s bereavement journey will be unique. But grief is normal – and necessary – and needs to be expressed.


Although supporting a bereaved child can seem daunting, there are simple, straightforward and practical ways, which can make a real difference.


With support and information, young people can be helped to understand what has happened and can slowly learn to live with their loss.

For parents and carers


At a time when you are experiencing your own grief at the death of a partner, child, other family member or friend, it can seem overwhelming to offer support to your child or children.


Within these pages we hope to give you some information and some guidance on the responses and needs of children and young people when someone important in their life has died.

Some important reminders


  • Remember that ‘super parents’ don’t exist. Just do what you can, when you can. Be gentle on yourself.


  • There is more than one way to support your children. Choose the things that you feel most comfortable with.


  • Accept that some things just can’t be ‘made better’ in a short space of time.


  • Talk to children using words they understand and ask questions to check they have understood you.


  • Give information a bit at a time if your children are younger. Pieces of the ‘jigsaw puzzle’ can be put together over time to make the complete picture.


  • Show children how you are feeling: it helps them to know that it’s OK to show their feelings too



  • Encourage children to ask questions and keep answering them – even if it’s for the 100th time.


  • Answer questions honestly and simply; and be willing to say ‘I don’t know’.


  • Try to find ways in which children can be involved.


  • Keep talking about the person who has died.


  • Trust yourself and your instincts – you haven’t forgotten how to parent your child.


  • Look after yourself too.



Children and grief


Children’s experience of a death in the family, and their reactions to it, may be different from yours as an adult. Try not to assume you know what they are feeling – ask them what they are feeling and accept what they tell you.


Initial reactions may range from great distress to what may seem to be unconcern. They may find it impossible to speak, they may be unable to stop crying or they may ask: ‘Can I ride my bike now?’ All of these – and more – are normal reactions and do not mean that the child is uncaring or reacting excessively.


Younger children experience grief differently to adults. Adults could be said to wade with difficulty through rivers of grief, and may become stuck in the middle of a wide sea of grieving. For children, their grieving can seem more like leaping in and out of puddles. One minute, they may be sobbing, the next they are asking: ‘What’s for tea?’ It does not mean they care any the less about what has happened.


KITES Charity UK: How do children cope with the death of a loved one? Part 2.

How to support a child through times of loss or grief:

  • Give your child truthful information – sometimes it may be tempting to shield your child from unpleasant facts, particularly if you are in pain yourself, but in fact if you do not tell your child the truth, they may build a fantasy of what has happened and they may easily come to the conclusion that it was their fault.
  • Inform your child’s school what has happened so that they may support your child through this difficult time.
  • Give your child reassurance -encourage them to believe in their ability to recover.
  • Help your child to understand that dead means “not living.” Use age-appropriate language and factual works like “death” or “dying.” Remember that younger children often think that death and sleeping are the same and they may need to be reassured that if they go to sleep, they will wake up again.
  • Give your child opportunities to say goodbye. Let your child go to the funeral and/or the cemetery. Explain to the child beforehand what to expect.
  • Allow your child to talk about what has happened even if it feels painful. Often children become anxious about expressing grief because they don’t want to upset you.
  • Be prepared to answer the same questions over and over again – children will take longer to understand what has happened than adults.
  • Give your child opportunities to express his/her feelings and reflect those feelings back to them. For example,  ”I know you are very angry that Grandpa is sick. You are scared he is going to die.”
  • Stick to normal daily routines and don’t forget to keep hugging and holding your child – they will need lots of reassurance and affection.
  • Be creative – Allow your child to make something that will keep the loved one’s memory alive. This could be a photo album, a story about the person, or a memory box with a few precious objects in. These memories can then be returned to at a less painful time.
  • Young children almost always display magical thinking during times of loss or death. Therefore you need to clearly convey the message – “It was not your fault. You are not bad or unlovable. There is nothing you could have done to change things.”
  • Avoid using euphemisms or figures of speech like “went to sleep” or “passed away.” Remember a child may take these phrases literally and become fearful of what they mean.
  • Make time to mark special times that were special before the bereavement and also to enjoy life!
  • Empower your child – ask them what they want.
  • Don’t take control away from the child – let them make decisions about what they want to do.
  • Try to share your grief with your child without “dumping” it onto them.
  • Let them have contact with people with whom they are close to.


An example of a Memory Box:








End of Part 2.

Psychologies Magazine Article (February/March 2011 Pages 42 – 45) “After Divorce: Creating Two Happy Homes”

I recently read this article and I found it particularly interesting and thought it would be great to share with my readers.

The key ideas that stuck with me after reading the article were:

1) Children need security and predictability after divorce, and
2) In order for children to feel safe and secure, the basic expectations of children need to be the same in each home.

So often children are caught up in the middle of their parent’s divorce. Sometimes one parent can bad mouth the other parent in front of the child, and this kind of communication can really make a child feel hurt and angry.

Children love their parents unconditionally, and it is really important to remember that, and not to “destroy” their love, as this will only cause doubts and mistrust, as well as the child feeling “broken in half.”

I recently read a wonderful children’s book about a family going through a divorce. In this story, the little girl had a dog that ALWAYS stayed with her wherever she went. No matter which house she stayed at, or where she went, or what parent she saw that weekend, her dog always stayed with her. This made me think of how important it is for children to have familiar toys, and/or pets with them at each house – so that both homes can feel like home to them.

Fred Stays with Me! [Hardback]
Author(s):Nancy Coffelt
Illustrated by:Tricia Tusa

Published by Little, Brown & Company
Published 5 June 2008
32 pages
Country: United States
EAN: 9780316882699

An Introduction to Play Therapy

This is a fantastic video and it gives a great introduction to play therapy…. what it is and how it can help children who are unable to “verbalise” what is going on in their lives…..

The play therapists seen in this video are all qualified and accredited with BAPT (British Association of Play Therapists). Some of them are actually my lecturers and tutors from my M.A and it is amazing to see them in action….. ENJOY! :)

Welcome to the Play2Grow Website!

Thank you for taking the time to visit the Play2Grow website. I hope that you find the information on this website informative and beneficial, whether you are a parent, guardian, teacher, student, or a trained professional.

On this website, you will find information about Play Therapy: what it is, why it is helpful, and how it can benefit children struggling with a variety of difficulties in their lives.