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Bereavement and loss

Everyone experiences bereavement and loss sometime in their life. This is just the same for children. Remember that the loss of a pet or something else important in their life might affect a child just as much as the loss of a person.

Explaining it

Be careful with the language and explanations you use. Avoid euphemisms like “grandad didn’t wake up” or “we’ve lost auntie Sue” because these may be taken literally. They may think that you could wake up grandad or could find auntie Sue and be more confused.

Use simple, straightforward explanations such as “their body became worn out and stopped working”.

Sometimes it can help to explain death as part of the life cycle, using the example of plants or animals.

Explain religious or spiritual rituals that the child might experience, such as funerals and wakes. It might help to visit the venue or speak to the person leading the funeral or other religious practice to help explain what will happen.

Be prepared for your child to ask questions and try to answer as honestly as you can.

How will my child cope?

Sometimes children can also seem to become a bit obsessed by death. Try not to worry about this unless it is having an impact on other aspects of their life.

Remember your child might not express feelings about the bereavement or loss in the same way as other people.

Your child might not want to talk, or they might have lots of questions. They may not appear to be sad or cry, but remember any change in their behaviour may communicate that they are findings things difficult.

Coping and moving forward

Help remember the person who died. If your child wishes to, you could make a memory book or box, to remind them of the person or pet who has died.

Be aware that changes in routine might make your child feel more stressed or anxious. Try to keep your child’s daily routine the same. Remember to tell them if something different is going to happen.

Look after yourself. If the bereavement has affected you too, try to find a friend or family member you can talk to.

More support

Ask for more support if you need it. Try Winston’s Wish or Child Bereavement UK.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: PSY29

Resource Type: Article

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