Grieving With Children: A Parent’s Guide

Death is a difficult thing to explain to children. Children need to know what’s going on, but they understand grief differently than adults do. 

This article will help you understand how children grieve and what you can do to help them through the process.

10 Ways to Support a Child’s Grief
– Grief is a natural response to loss that can manifest in various ways.
– Children grieve differently than adults, and their grieving process can vary depending on their age and developmental stage.
– Parents can support their children through grief by creating a safe and supportive environment, encouraging open communication, and providing age-appropriate information and resources.
– Building a support system for children who are grieving can be helpful, and finding strength in community can make a big difference.
– Helping children express their emotions and memories in a healthy way is essential to the grieving process.

Grieving With Kids Is Different

A child’s experience of loss is unique, and it’s important to remember that every child will grieve in his or her own way. In general, children younger than 6 years old may not show any signs of grief at all, and for those 7-12 years old the grieving process can be delayed by a few weeks or months. 

The most common reaction among older children is feeling angry or guilty about the death because they wish it hadn’t happened; they may feel helpless and out of control as well.

Parents should be patient with their grieving kids, who might have an incredibly limited understanding of death even if they have lost someone close before. 

A 5-year-old might not understand why she can’t see Grandpa anymore (even though he died six months ago), while an 8-year-old may think he’ll come back someday (like when Aunt Kate came back from her trip). 

It’s also common for children to have persistent questions about what happens after we die for example: “Does my soul go up into heaven?” or “Do animals’ souls go there too?”

Supporting children through grief can be challenging, but as parents, we have the power to help them navigate the difficult journey of grief. Visit our guide on supporting children through grief to learn effective strategies to help your child cope.” – Supporting Children Through Grief: A Guide for Parents

Death Is Difficult To Explain To Children

Death is a difficult concept for children to understand, and it’s important that you explain it the way they can best understand. For example, children may not understand that death is permanent and that those who have died will never come back. 

They may also be afraid of what will happen when they die (or what happens after) or why this particular person died. 

If you don’t want to talk about these things with your child yet, it’s okay to say so outright there’s no need to give false information just because you’re scared he’ll ask more questions later on.

If your child wants more details about death or has questions about what happens after people die, try answering them in simple terms without using any scary words if possible for example: “When we die our bodies stop working because the heart stops beating.”

Common ChallengesPossible Solutions
Children may not understand that death is finalExplain that when someone dies, they will not come back
Children may blame themselves for the deathReassure them that it’s not their fault and that nothing they did caused the death
Children may be confused about their feelingsEncourage them to express their emotions and offer support and comfort

Children Grieve In Their Own Way

Your child’s grief is not just like yours. Children grieve in their own way, and they often deal with their emotions differently than adults. 

Some children become more withdrawn, while others become clingy. Still others become more aggressive or angry as a result of the loss.

Some children may be more outgoing, talkative and playful after losing someone close to them because it helps them deal with their feelings on a day-to-day basis (like when the family gets together). 

However, this can cause problems later on down the road if your child continues to rely on this behavior to avoid dealing with difficult situations or emotions that he or she doesn’t feel ready for yet

The most important thing is that you listen carefully when talking about your loved one who has died so that you can understand what your child needs at every step along this journey

Talking to children about death and grief can be tough, but it’s an important conversation to have. Our guide on how to talk to your child about death and grief provides helpful tips and advice to make the conversation easier.” – How to Talk to Your Child About Death and Grief

Children Can’t “Get Over It”

Children can’t “get over” a tragedy like the death of a loved one. It’s not that they don’t want to, but they simply can’t. Mourning takes time and requires support from those around us to help us through it. 

Children will grieve in their own way, at their own pace don’t expect them to be able to express themselves or understand what’s happening. They may need reassurance that they are safe and loved.

Address Your Children’s Questions Honestly And Directly

Children are naturally perceptive, and they often pick up on what’s going on around them. They may have questions that you don’t even know about. 

You can be sure that your children will notice when their father or mother is sad or upset, and they may want to know why. If a parent has died, children might ask:

  • What happened to my dad?
  • Why did he die?
  • Is it true that he’s in heaven now?

Losing a loved one is never easy, especially for children. Our guide on 10 ways to help your child cope with the loss of a loved one provides practical strategies to support your child through the grieving process.” – 10 Ways to Help Your Child Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

Be Available But Give Your Children Space To Grieve

The first step is to be available.

Let your children know you will listen to them and support them if they need it, but don’t force them to talk about the loss. Be supportive and reassuring, but let them express their emotions in their own way and at their own pace. After all, grieving adults may not feel like talking much either!

This can be a difficult balance for many parents who want to help soothe their children’s pain and reassure themselves that everything is okay even when things certainly aren’t okay. 

But forcing children into an adult model of grief can have unintended consequences down the line; it’s possible that a child who feels forced into expressing sadness or anger might later repress those feelings and act out with more troubling behaviors as an adult (such as drug use).

In addition, some experts believe that while all children will process grief differently depending on age, personality type, life experiences related to death and other factors that affect how we process grief; there are certain universal ways of grieving which apply regardless of what culture one comes from. These include:

  • Expressing sadness about something missing in life (like another parent gone)
  • Asking questions about what happened (and why) so they can better understand death
  • Expressing anger at losing someone close
What Parents Can DoWhy It’s Important
Set aside time to talk to your kidsGives them the opportunity to express their emotions and ask questions
Provide a listening earHelps them feel heard and validated
Give them space when neededAllows them time to process their emotions and thoughts

Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep

Be honest.

If the reason your child is upset is something you have control over, try to do what you can to help them feel better. For example, if your child wants to go out for ice cream and it’s raining, then take them out for ice cream when the weather improves! 

But if there’s nothing specific that needs to change in order for your child to feel better (for example, they just want their mommy or daddy), don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with telling them so just say something like: “I know this isn’t easy for you right now, but everything will be okay.”

Supporting a grieving child requires patience, compassion, and understanding. Our guide on 15 tips for supporting your child through grief and loss offers practical ways to help your child process their emotions and memories in a healthy way.” – 15 Tips for Supporting Your Child Through Grief and Loss

Reassure Your Kids That They’re Safe And Loved

In order to help your child grieve and heal, you’ll need to reassure them that they are safe, loved and involved in this process. 

Your children may have questions about death and how it will affect their lives in the future. Fortunately, there are many ways for parents to prepare their children for the loss of a loved one. 

Remember that young children can understand only what they know from experience; therefore, keep it simple and concrete when explaining death to them: “Daddy died because his heart stopped beating.” 

As an adult caregiver, be aware of how your words may affect a child’s perception of death at different ages:

Children ages 2–6 often believe that everyone returns from heaven as angels or fairies when they die. While younger children do not yet understand the permanence of death or its finality that is actually not true they do know what happens when someone dies (i.e., the body stops moving). 

Older kids might ask if pets go immediately into heaven without dying first like humans do; explain that animals live shorter lives than humans do and therefore have less time on earth before going up above where Mommy/Daddy is now with God watching over us all together again someday soon!

Ways to Reassure Your ChildrenImportance
Remind them that they’re lovedHelps them feel secure and supported
Provide a sense of routineGives them a feeling of stability during a difficult time
Encourage positive memories and experiencesHelps to shift their focus from the grief to happy times in the past

Be Patient And Understanding

Be patient and understanding. Don’t force them to do things they don’t want to do, and don’t expect them to act like nothing happened. 

If your child is upset about losing a loved one, it’s okay for them to cry or be sad for a long time. Don’t try to make them happy all the time when you know they’re sad that won’t help anyone! Instead, let your child grieve in his own way and at his own pace.

Allow Your Children To Express Their Grief In Different Ways

Allow your children to express their grief in different ways. Children grieve in different ways, and it can be difficult for parents to know when their child is experiencing grief or another emotion. 

It is important not to try and force a child into an adult way of coping with loss; instead, help them find the best way for them. 

Some children may want to talk about what happened, while others may want to avoid talking about it at all costs. 

Some might cry frequently, while others might go through days without crying at all (and this doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t grieving). 

If a child appears afraid of showing emotions publicly (like at school), you could tell him that everyone deals with different things differently and he can express his feelings however he wants – even if it means crying in front of everyone!

Don’t push kids too hard into social activities right away after a death occurs. You may think that getting back into their normal routine will help kids forget about their losses but sometimes doing so can make things harder than they’ve already been made on their own time table!

Helping kids understand and process loss can be a challenging experience for parents. Our guide on helping kids understand and process loss offers practical advice and strategies to support your child through the grieving process.” – Helping Kids Understand and Process Loss


It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but it can be especially challenging when children are involved. 

The good news is that you aren’t alone in this process. While there are no hard-and-fast rules for how children should grieve, there are some helpful tips that can make the experience easier for both of you. 

It’s important to remember that each child will grieve differently and at their own pace and this is okay! What matters most is that they feel safe and loved while they work through their feelings, so pay attention to them closely as they go through this difficult time.

Further Reading

If you found the information in our guide on grieving with children helpful, here are some additional resources you may find useful:

A Parent’s Guide to Supporting a Grieving Child: This article provides practical advice for parents on how to support their children through the grieving process, including how to talk to them about death and how to create a supportive environment.

Grief and Loss Books for Children: This website offers a collection of books that can help children understand and process grief and loss. The books are categorized by age range and cover a range of topics, from death of a loved one to divorce.


What is grief?

Grief is a natural response to loss, which can include the death of a loved one, a divorce, or any significant change or loss in one’s life. It is a complex emotional process that can manifest in a variety of ways, including sadness, anger, guilt, and numbness.

How do children grieve?

Children grieve differently than adults, and their grieving process can vary depending on their age and developmental stage. Some common ways that children express grief include through play, drawing, or acting out.

It’s important for parents to be aware of these differences and to provide age-appropriate support and guidance to their children.

How can parents support their children through grief?

Parents can support their children through grief by creating a safe and supportive environment, encouraging open communication, and providing age-appropriate information and resources.

It’s also important for parents to take care of their own emotional well-being, as this can have a significant impact on their ability to support their children.