Supporting children and young people with loss, change and bereavement

How to talk about loss and bereavement

  • Do not avoid the subject with your child, it is important to talk about loss and death
  • Keep your language simple. Do not use words like ‘passed away’ or ‘went to sleep’ as children can take this literally and may think these things could happen to them. It is best to use the words ‘dead’ or ‘death’. Young children may need to have this explained further
  • Be honest and open with your child. Take into account their age and understanding, telling them basic facts and responding to the questions they will have
  • Many young children are likely to repeat questions and all children will need time, support and patience to help them to process and understand the situation
  • Children often need reassurance that the death was not their fault and that it will not happen to them or someone who is caring for them


Books can be a very helpful way of supporting children to understand death and loss. Here is a selection of books which have been reviewed positively.

  • When Someone Has a Very Serious Illness by Marge Eaton Haagard
  • The Invisible String by Patrice Karst & Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
  • Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley
  • As Big as it Gets – Supporting a Child When Someone is Seriously Ill – Winston’s Wish
  • Out of The Blue by Julie Stokes & Paul Oxley (A book for teenagers)

Winston’s Wish has a list of specialist books and resources

Further information on telling children that someone has died