Chapter 5: Supporting children and youth

How children grieve

The grief expert says
Ceilidh speaks about ways of explaining causes of death to children. (3:22)Video transcript
Andrea explains how children grieve in chunks. (3:22)Video transcript

When I told them their uncle had died, they had a few questions. I told them we could talk about their uncle anytime they wanted. They cried for a few minutes, and then they ran off to play.

My daughter was angry that she wasn’t given the chance to say “goodbye.” I felt this anger and pain too.

Children have individual ways of experiencing and expressing their grief; there is no single right way. In your family, each child’s response may also depend on their own unique relationship with the person who died.

When children grieve, they do this very differently than adults. Below are some things to know about children’s grief. Click on each of the phrases below to read more.

What may help

  • Maintain routines, limits, and expectations as much as possible to help your children feel safe and secure.   
  • Reassure them that even though you’re grieving, you’re still able to take care of them. 
  • Share with them the ways that help you calm and soothe yourself (e.g., spending time with friends and family, digging in the garden, going for a run, reading a good book). Help them to find age-appropriate ways to help calm and soothe themselves.
  • If you are unsure about how your children are doing, consider a consultation with a children’s grief counsellor. Ask your physician about resources for grieving children in your area.
  • Children may benefit from outside help and spending time with peers who are also grieving. This can take many forms, for example:

    • Grief support groups
    • Bereavement camps
    • Counselling with someone who specializes in children's grief
  • Finding a grief counsellor for yourself can help you with your own grief, which can also help your kids in theirs. 

Helpful resources  - Module 1 - Understanding children's grief and finding teachable moments - Chapter 1 – How children grieve