Talking with Children and Young People about Death and Dying

Talking with Children and Young People about Death and Dying

Talking with Children and Young People about Death and Dying

Talking with Children and Young People about Death and Dying


Talking with Children and Young People about Death and Dying is written for parents and professionals helping children who have suffered or are facing imminent bereavement. Used as a starting point for approaching this complex subject, the poems, stories and illustrations in this resource will help children and young people understand the often painful and confusing thoughts and emotions that are provoked by the death of someone close to them, and encourage them to communicate their thoughts, fears and worries. Beginning with an exploration of the concepts of death and dying, this second edition covers all aspects of bereavement, from the initial pain of separation, the questions, anger, fears and dreams that the child may experience, to remembering and moving on.


There follows below a ten-point summary of what to watch out for in children and young people that may convey, often in non-verbal ways, that they are needing help. Bear in mind that if these behaviours/symptoms do not show signs of resolving over time, the child may be needing more help than you can give. They are all common signs that a child or young person is overloaded with distress that has not been processed. All of the manifestations of distress listed below are very likely to be resolved with patience and understanding; however, they may also be more intransigent signs of trauma. The material in Part Two will help you address these manifestations.

We need to be aware of how a young person might be communicating without words. Whatever age we are, we do not always express to other people what we are feeling and thinking after something very sad or distressing has happened. There are lots of understandable reasons for this. For a child or young person there can be even more reasons. Children do not always understand what has happened and therefore confusion can be an additional factor. Children do not always have the vocabulary to express themselves, and are therefore left with more non-verbal ways to react to events. Children and young people may be concerned not to draw attention to their own needs for fear of overburdening their adult caregivers even more. It is often very hard for them to know how to talk about their feelings, and how to respond appropriately to each other – these experiences are more likely to be new ones for them and beyond their usual experience. It can therefore be seen that although all the following signs can be present in distressed people of any age, they are very likely to manifest themselves in children and young people.

Remember that a child or young person may have had stress in their lives before their most recent acquaintance with death and bereavement. It is possible that manifestations of distress that were present before could therefore be exacerbated.

Reliving/re-experiencing a distressing event

The child may play or behave in ways that somehow recreate or relive elements of the difficult event. He or she may be preoccupied with the event and ask worried questions, constantly think about it, show it in drawings, or act it out. The child . . .

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