Helping children with bereavement


Sadly, there will be times where we lose loved ones and need support to deal with this effectively, which while more pertinent during the pandemic is not specific to the pandemic. Whilst this is upsetting and difficult to deal with, even as adults, talking with children is really important and should not be delayed or ignored as this can impact on their development, their understanding of the world and their personal and social skills. This page provides a list of resources you can use to help cope through this difficult time, including many kindly shared by St Joseph's Hospice.

Image depicting the loss of a family member

Interactive resources

Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine – Diane Crossley (younger children, probably 5+). Winston’s Wish interactive book. Moves between book based and real-world activities and hits a nice balance between remembering and having fun.

When Someone has a Serious Illness and When someone Very Special Dies - Marge Heegaard. (age 6+). Interactive books that can be worked through with adult support. There is some crossover of the exercises in the two books, but a slightly different emphasis depending whether the family is coping with end of life issues or bereavement.

Each Breath a Smile – Thich Nhat Hanh and Sister Thuc Mghiem. A little book of meditation for young children. Can help when anxiety is overwhelming.

Non-interactive

Young Minds: Parents Guide to Support - Grief and Loss. Information, advice and tips for where you can find support if your child has experienced a bereavement or loss.

The Huge Bag of Worries - Virginia Ironside and Frank Rogers (Age 3+). This is a simple general story book about how sharing feelings can be very helpful.

Rabbityness – Jo Empson (4+). Introduces children to dealing with loss of any kind. The story celebrates the individuality of Rabbit after he has gone.

Michael Rosen’s Sad book - Michael Rosen (Age 9+, but suitable for everyone). Michael Rosen writes about his feelings following the death of his son. It’s deceptively simple, but it is very clear, honest and accepting of the wide range of feelings that accompany loss.

I have a question about Death – Arlen Grad Gaines and Meredith Englander Polsky. Clear answers for all children, including those with additional needs or ASD to help understand what death means. Illustrated with SymbolStix.

Marvin the Maple Tree - Richard Littledale. A small book to help children as they process the death of an adult in their lives. This beautifully illustrated story may help start a conversation with young children.

How to tell children someone has died - Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. As adults how we break life changing news to children matters. This step by step guide from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health offers valuable guidance on how to do this. 

COVID-19 specific

While We Can’t Hug - Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar (3+). Reassuring story about how to show affection whilst social distancing.

Coronavirus A book for children about Covid-19 – Elizabeth Jenner et al (6+). Clear explanations about COVID-19 and its effects - both from a health perspective and the impact it has on a family's day-to-day life. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler of The Gruffalo.

Saying Goodbye - Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. Do you need to talk to your child about the death of a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic? If you find yourself in this very sad and difficult position, this animation about bereavement during this especially difficult time may help your discussions.

Apps

These are very different from one another, but both have been developed with direct consultation with young people about what they find helpful. They can be downloaded from App Store or Google Play. (weblinks included for information.)

Apart of Me (11+). https://apartofme.app/ Award winning, interactive app in game format. Users can explore a peaceful virtual space where they will find lots of information and advice about loss, take on real-world quests and hear collected stories of other young people who have had similar experiences.

Grief Support for Young People (Child Bereavement UK) (11+). https://www.childbereavementuk.org/app-grief-support-for-young-people App created by a group of bereaved young people working directly with Child Bereavement UK. It was developed for 11-25-year-olds who have been bereaved of someone important to them, and can also be used by friends, teachers, parents, and professionals who would like to know how to support bereaved young people. Very direct and clear.

Websites

Winston’s Wish (all age groups). Comprehensive website with resources, information and multiple help and advice platforms for children and adults, including a free helpline, and online “chat” support.

Grief Encounter (teens).  Lots of really helpful information and support, specially put together for young people. There is a downloadable teenagers’ guide to bereavement, which is particularly useful. Grieftalk is their free online chat helpline for children. Free e-counselling is also available for over 14s.

Young Minds (teens).  Advice pages for young people and their parents about the effects of the pandemic on wellbeing. Includes specific information about grieving.

NHS.uk (all age groups). Advice about how to approach the death of a loved one with techniques to use and support available.


Updated: 02/08/2021