Supporting Children Through Grief: A Guide For Parents

You’re probably feeling pretty overwhelmed. You’ve just lost your child and you’re trying to figure out how to get through this with your other children still in tow. 

I know it’s not easy, but it can help if you remind yourself that there are things you can do as a parent to support them through their grief.

What grieving kids want you to know, about grief
Building a support system after experiencing grief and loss can be difficult, but finding strength in community can make a big difference.
It’s important for parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about death and grief, and to provide them with support and guidance as they navigate the grieving process.
Grief can be especially difficult for children, who may not have the tools to process their emotions. Providing them with love, support, and resources can help them cope and heal.
Supporting your child through grief is a process, and it’s important to be patient and understanding as they work through their emotions.
There are many resources available to help parents support their children through grief, including guides, articles, and organizations that specialize in grief counseling and support.

Understand Your Role as a Parent

One of the most important things you can do is to understand your role as a parent. You are not the “perfect” parent, and you don’t need to be: Your children know that they are loved and supported by you. 

It’s okay if they see you cry or get frustrated with yourself and their situation; they will feel more comfortable talking about what’s going on when they know that it’s okay for all of us to have our own emotional responses.

It’s also important for them to know that even though there are no answers, there may be ways we can help each other through this difficult time.

Having a conversation with your child about death and grief can be challenging, but it’s an important step in helping them process their emotions. Our guide on how to talk to your child about death and grief can provide valuable insights and strategies to make the conversation more comfortable and productive.” – How to Talk to Your Child About Death and Grief

Give Them Words

It’s important to use words that are age appropriate. For example, preschoolers might not understand the concept of “death,” so you can say something like “your grandma is in heaven now.”

For children aged 5–8, you can explain that someone has died and they won’t be coming back. You can also explain what happens when we die by saying: “When people die, their bodies stop working and their minds go somewhere else (a place called heaven). Then someone special watches over them every day.”

For older children aged 9–12 years old, it’s helpful to give concrete examples and analogies such as: “When people leave us like this it makes us feel sad because we miss them.”

Ask open-ended questionsEncourage your child to talk about their feelings: “How are you feeling today?” or “What’s on your mind?”
Use age-appropriate languageExplain death or loss in terms they can understand; avoid euphemisms like “sleeping” or “gone away”
Share memories togetherEncourage your child to share memories of the person who died, or the object or place that is lost
Read books or watch movies about griefThis can help your child understand that they’re not alone, and that grief is a normal part of the human experience

Don’t Try to Fix It

Be there. Because you can’t fix it, and because you won’t make it better, the best thing you can do is be with your child. 

Be there when they talk and listen to what they say. Be there when they don’t want to talk at all and just need someone who will sit in silence with them for a while. 

Don’t try to make their feelings go away or make them any different than what they are if your child is crying, let him cry; if he’s angry or sad or confused, let him express those feelings without judging them as wrong or inappropriate.

As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your child from pain, but grief is a natural part of life. Our guide on grieving with children offers tips and advice to help you support your child through the grieving process and ensure they feel heard and understood.” – Grieving with Children: A Parent’s Guide

Share Your Own Story

The first step in supporting your child is to be honest about how you feel. If you don’t want to share your own story, don’t. 

You can tell them that sharing is important and encourage them to come to you if they’re ready later on, when they might be more comfortable opening up. If you do want to tell your child about your experience with loss or grief, remember that their experiences might be different than yours and proceed with caution.

Most importantly: be respectful of their boundaries! Depending on the age and developmental level of your child, they may not have the same emotional capacity as an adult—and if they do, it’s still important for parents not overstep boundaries in their attempts at support (e.g., talking about specific details of their own loss). 

Avoid saying things like “I know exactly how s/he feels”, because it implies an intimacy between yourself and the person whose death affected both of you—which may not exist at all!

Demonstrate empathySharing your own story of grief can help your child realize that they’re not alone in their experience, and that it’s normal to feel sad or overwhelmed
Role model coping skillsBy discussing how you coped with your own grief, you can show your child healthy ways to manage their emotions
Foster communicationSharing your own story can open up communication channels between you and your child, helping you to build a stronger relationship

Be Gentle with Yourself, Too

When your child is in pain, it’s natural for you to want to take their pain away. But it will be hard for them if they feel like you’re not hurting too.

Be gentle with yourself, too. It’s okay to cry, be angry, feel helpless, and blame yourself. Sometimes you may even want to stay home from work or school because the thought of being around other people makes your child’s absence hurt more than usual.

You might also feel guilty about things that have nothing to do with their death for example, if they died in a car accident and your older child was driving because he needed his own car in high school.

These feelings can be overwhelming but they’re normal reactions when someone close dies suddenly.

So give yourself permission not only to feel sad but also angry or guilty (or any other emotion).

Losing a loved one can be especially difficult for children, who may not have the tools to process their emotions. Our guide on 10 ways to help your child cope with the loss of a loved one offers practical strategies for supporting your child and helping them navigate the grieving process.” – 10 Ways to Help Your Child Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

Get Professional Help if You Need It

Seeking professional help is one of the most important things you can do to support your child through grief. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to schedule an appointment with a therapist or counselor who specializes in helping children and families cope with loss. 

There are lots of different types of professionals out there, but they all have one thing in common: they want what’s best for your child. 

They’ll know how best to approach talking about and dealing with feelings related to the loss of a loved one, and they’ll be able to give you advice on how best to care for yourself as well (which will ultimately make it easier for both you and your child).

When searching for a therapist or counselor, look for someone who has experience working with kids who have experienced loss (like hospice workers or social workers). 

You might also try asking other parents whose families have gone through similar experiences; chances are good that these folks will have either encountered professionals themselves or know someone who recommends them highly!

If therapy is something that interests but seems scary at first glance don’t worry! You’re not alone; many people feel nervous about seeking counseling because they feel like they’ll be judged by their therapist if they open up too much or say something wrong

But remember: therapists are trained professionals whose job is solely focused on helping others improve their lives by providing comfort during difficult times such as grief-related stressors they’re not mean people who want nothing more than to watch others suffer forever without saying anything helpful! 

They’re there specifically because they care about each person’s well-being so much that

Supporting your child through grief can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. Our guide on 15 tips for supporting your child through grief and loss offers valuable insights and strategies to help you be there for your child and navigate the grieving process together.” – 15 Tips for Supporting Your Child Through Grief and Loss

Help Them Face the Hard Feelings

  • Make sure your child knows that all feelings are okay.
  • Encourage your child to express his or her feelings, whether through talking or drawing pictures.
  • Reassure the child that it is okay to cry, even if he or she has been told crying is “not a sign of strength.”
  • Encourage your child to identify what he or she feels and explain how those feelings make him feel.
  • Give your child a safe space in which they can express themselves without fear of being judged by others.

Let Children Know They Can’t “Catch” the Loss From You

It’s important to let your child know that they can’t “catch” the loss from you. Children are often concerned about this and will ask questions such as: “Will I get hurt too?” or “Will I die like Mommy?” It helps to reassure them that you will always love them and be there for them. Let them know that even though their loved one has died, it doesn’t mean they’re going to lose their other parent as well.

If your child asks if they will get hurt or die, try to answer honestly but with compassion. And remember, it is okay if you don’t know how; most likely your own grief makes it difficult for you to understand how a little person could understand such things at this age anyway!

Create New Traditions

It’s okay to create new traditions. You don’t have to do the same things as before, or feel like you have to go through the same emotions as before. 

Some families may want to keep traditions they had before, but others may find it easier and more comforting not to connect their past with their present in this way.

You might think only ‘mature’ people can handle change gracefully, but children are often very flexible about what is familiar around them and also able to adjust quickly when things change without fussing about it too much!

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for new holiday traditions, consider these suggestions:

Think about what was special about your holiday celebrations before and try incorporating some of those elements into your new tradition(s). 

Maybe it was special foods or decorations, or an annual trip somewhere fun (like visiting Santa at Macy’s). What made these elements so memorable? How could you incorporate them into a new tradition that would feel just as special?

Consider other ways that family members might enjoy spending time together on holidays maybe there’s something else equally important that doesn’t involve gift giving or food!

Losing a loved one can be especially difficult for children, who may struggle to understand what’s happening and why they’re feeling the way they do. Our guide on supporting children through the loss of a loved one offers practical advice and resources to help you support your child and guide them through the grieving process.” – Supporting Children Through the Loss of a Loved One

Remind Them They’re Not Alone

You may not be able to shield your child from the pain of losing a loved one, but you can help them feel less alone in their grief. 

Remind your child that people are experiencing the same thing, it’s okay to talk about the loss, and it’s important to talk about the loss but also other things. Your child may also need reminders that it’s okay to feel sad but also feel happy again.

Types of professionalsWhat they do
Therapist / CounselorProvides therapy to individuals or families to help them cope with grief
PsychologistDiagnoses and treats mental health conditions related to grief (such as depression or anxiety), may also provide therapy
Social WorkerConnects families with resources in the community, provides emotional support, and may provide counseling
Support group facilitatorLeads or co-leads support groups for individuals or families who are coping with grief

Connect with Others Who Are Struggling, Too

It’s important to connect with others who are going through the same experience as you and your child. You do not have to go through this alone.

  • Seek out others who are struggling, too.

If you’re feeling isolated or lonely, it can be helpful to seek out someone else who is going through a similar experience whether that means reaching out to a friend or family member whom you know has experienced loss in their life, or finding support groups that exist for parents and children dealing with grief and trauma as a result of gun violence in schools or communities (see here for some examples). 

You might also find inspiration from other community members who are working toward making change in their own communities by advocating for gun law reform and addressing other issues related to racism, sexism and homophobia (such as police brutality).


In the end, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. There are many people who have gone through what you’re going through now and there are even more who will be able to help you along the way. 

And remember: The most important thing is that your children feel loved and supported, no matter what. You may not know exactly how to do this right now, but with time, practice (and maybe a little help from some friends), your heart will open up in ways that surprise even yourself!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources on helping children cope with grief:

Helping Children Cope with Grief: A comprehensive guide from the Child Mind Institute that offers practical tips and strategies for supporting children through the grieving process.

Grief and Loss: A guide from Young Minds that explores how children and young people may experience grief and offers advice on how parents can support their child through this difficult time.


What is grief?

Grief is the natural response to losing someone or something that we care about. It can be a very intense and overwhelming emotion, and can manifest in a range of ways, including sadness, anger, guilt, and confusion.

How do children experience grief?

Children may experience grief differently than adults, as they may not have the same understanding of death and loss. They may struggle to express their emotions, and may not know how to cope with the intense feelings that come with grief.

How can I help my child cope with grief?

There are many ways you can help your child cope with grief, including creating a safe and supportive environment for them to express their emotions, offering reassurance and comfort, and providing opportunities for them to remember and honor the person they have lost. It’s important to remember that every child is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting a child through grief.