Supporting a child after bereavement

Kids n dogsThis week we bring you advice on supporting a child after bereavement from our friends at Winston’s Wish. Each year, Winston’s Wish supports over 30,000 bereaved children and young people after the death of their mum, dad, brother or sister, so that they can face the future with confidence and hope.

Every 22 minutes in Britain a child is bereaved of a parentThe death of a parent or sibling is one of the most fundamental losses a child will ever face. If childhood grief is not dealt with appropriately it can have a lasting effect on the child’s emotional well-being and lead to a variety of short and long term problems.The right support at the right time can enable bereaved young people to live with their grief and build positive futures.

Winston’s Wish offers this advice on the best way of supporting a child after a bereavement.

1: Should a child attend a funeral?

  • Although it is a personal choice, sometimes it can help a child to attend an important funeral as a way to say goodbye. It is important for the child to have information about what a funeral might be like, so they can make an choice about whether or not to go. (See 2 below.)
  • It is important to encourage but not to force a child to attend.
  • Funerals can help a child to absorb the reality and finality of death.
  • It can help a child to begin to understand what has happened and to also feel less scared.
  • Attending a funeral can help a child to feel more a part of what has happened and included along with the adults.

Whether or not the child wants to attend, ask whether there’s a story they might like shared at the funeral – an important lasting memory.

If the child does not want to attend, make sure there is some support available for them during the time of the

Remember that funerals are not the only opportunity for children to say goodbye to the important person who died. Sometimes a quiet, private goodbye ritual can be more appropriate. (See 3 below.)

2: How should I prepare a child to attend a funeral?

If a child chooses to attend a funeral, then it is important to give them some explanation about the funeral and what will be happening at it.
Be clear, direct and concrete in your explanation.

  • Who… will be at the funeral or memorial service?
  • What… is going to happen?
  • Where… will the service take place?
  • When… will the funeral happen?
  • Why… are we doing this?

3: How else can we say goodbye?
If the child doesn’t want to attend the funeral there are other ways to say ‘goodbye.’

  • Let off some balloons with messages of love tied on.
  • Plant a tree in a special place.
  • Hold your own special ceremony with a poem, letter or tribute. (See Final Fling’s guidance on coming up with your own lovely metaphor poem. It’s really easy and fun to do. You can’t get it wrong – even if you think you were rubbish at English and poetry at school!)
  • Prepare something to leave in a special space like a card or a present.
  • Buy a special candle that you can light on anniversaries.
  • Start a collection of special memories about the person that has died.
  • Involve the child in scattering the ashes or visiting the cemetery for the first time.
  • Make a shrine by decorating a shoe box, with a photo of the person who’s died as a centrepiece and add small lovely objects or make plasticine objects to decorate it – things the person liked, like their favourite food. (See Final Fling photos from a shrine-making workshop.)



Final Fling has a Notices & Tributes and a Memory Box section in its free Life Planning Tools so that you and others can post and share photos and messages, stories, films and music about a person you have loved and lost.

Winston’s Wish also has Tribute section. Create an individual webpage for friends and family, near or far, to upload and share special memories and celebrate a loved one’s life in a very personal way. You can share photos, music, videos and stories. You can also light a candle, make donations or use the page for events and fundraising. The page will show the total of any funds raised in their name so that everyone who has contributed can see what they have achieved. Any money raised will create a lasting legacy of life-changing impact for bereaved children and their families.

“Keeping precious memories alive is one of the most important gifts we can give grieving children. A Tribute is a great way to achieve this” Brett Riches, Winston’s Wish Family Services Team Leader

Visit Winston’s Wish or phone or call Corinne on 01242 515157.


About Winston’s Wish

The Winston’s Wish Helpline, staffed by qualified clinical practitioners, provides guidance and information for anyone supporting a bereaved child – 08452 03 04 05, 9am-5pm Monday – Friday and 7pm-9.30pm on Wednesday.

  •  Winston’s Wish was the first charity to establish child bereavement support services in the UK and continues to lead the way in providing specialist child bereavement support services across the country
  • has built a wealth of knowledge, experience and understanding of the impact of bereavement at a young age and has developed services to best support a grieving child’s needs
  • offers the widest range of practical support and guidance on bereavement to children, their families and professionals
  • provides in-depth therapeutic help in individual, group and residential settings, and via a national helpline, interactive website and publications
  • has UK wide specialist support programmes for children affected by more traumatic deaths relating to murder, manslaughter, suicide or the military community
  • depends almost entirely on voluntary donations for its income.


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