Bereavement conversations to support your child

In the coming weeks and months, many families will sadly face bereavement of loved ones and friends from COVID-19.  This is likely to have a significant emotional impact on children, young people and their families due to the current guidance on social distancing. Because families are unable to surround themselves with their usual support networks, these moments will be particularly traumatic. Families will be feeling overwhelmed at not being able to grieve in a traditional way through attending a funeral or not being able to say goodbye.  

Your children are likely to have lots of questions and will be anxious in these uncertain times.  They will be picking up on changes in emotions within the family and they will be hearing conversations or seeing news and media which can be scary and confusing for them. It is important that you are open and honest with them about what is happening. 

When talking to your children, try to use clear and simple language according to their age. Especially try to avoid language such as “gone away” or “lost” as this can be confusing; it is clearer to say someone “has died”.  Express your own feelings as a way to encourage your child/children to express their own.  Reassure them that you are there to support them through this. 

National bereavement charities are publishing guidance on how to support and talk with your children around bereavement and COVID-19.  Many are offering telephone and online support too. 

  • The Childhood Bereavement Network has published a guide on keeping connected with loved ones during these difficult times. 
  • Grief Encounter are running activities for bereaved children and their families on their Instagram page. They are also offering support and guidance on their website. 
  • Winston’s Wish is a national charity which supports bereaved children, young people and their families. They have written guidance for families on telling a child someone is seriously ill, telling a child someone has died from COVID-19 and talking to bereaved children about COVID-19. 
  • Cruse Bereavement Care have published resources to support families in these difficult circumstances
  • Apart of me’ is an app designed for young people who have lost a parent or close relative. It provides young people a safe place to grieve
  • Essex Libraries has suggested a list of books to read with children and young people to support with bereavement. The library has a wide range you can download at the moment
  • This book answers key questions in simple language appropriate for 5 to 9 year olds about COVID-19 and would support reducing anxieties for any young child.
  • Childhood Bereavement Network
  • National Bereavement Alliance