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How to Comfort a Grieving Child who has Lost a Parent

Updated on June 4, 2012
Comfort a grieving child.
Comfort a grieving child.

Comfort A Grieving Child

A child who has recently suffered a profound loss may have a great deal of difficulty fully grasping the concept and dealing with the realities they now face. To comfort a grieving child, we need an understanding of their feelings of anxiousness and possibly hopelessness. These feelings are far more intense than they have ever experienced before and it may take time for them to be able to express themselves.

A younger child (age 5 and under) may have only a vague concept of death, may regress to younger behaviors and feel anxious and clingy. An older child can understand more clearly and may even take on responsibility for a loved ones death. They too will experience heightened anxiety and may be unwilling to speak about the death.

Additionally, a grieving child may have a physical response to a death. Nightmares, headaches and stomachaches / nausea are common.

How To Comfort a Grieving Child and What to Avoid

Children need to grieve just like adults do. Their process may be a bit different, depending on their age, but it will be a long process just the same.

Understand that there is nothing you can do to fix their problem. There is no quick solution. There are no magic words that will make them feel better. All you can do is support them while they are learning to cope.

What you can do to comfort a grieving child:

  • Acknowledge their pain.
  • Actively listen and respond to them without judgement.
  • If they don't want to talk, be comfortable with the silence.
  • Relieve their anxiety. If you are close to the child, stay physically close. Reassure them of your love for them.
  • Speak as openly as you can about what happened.
  • Allow them to talk about the deceased. Share memories

  • Be honest. If you don't know the answer to their question tell them.

Grieving is a long process. Be patient. Be available. And be sensitive to the emotional roller-coaster ride that a grieving child may be experiencing.

What not to say to a grieving child:

Avoid cliches. "Time heals all wounds" will mean nothing to them and it is not honest. Their grieving will end eventually, but some wounds, unfortunately never fully heal. "Don't feel bad," and "Don't dwell on it," are to be avoided as well. If they feel bad, they need to feel bad and its okay. If they feel numb that's okay too. They are entitled to their feelings, whatever they are. And they can dwell on them if they need to.

The Mourning Star Center: Comforting a Grieving Child

Where to Find Help to Comfort a Grieving Child

A site for kids by kids, KidsAid helps children deal with grief and loss. There is an email support group, a question and answer section for parents and a section for children to share and view each others artwork and stories.

Loss, Change & Grief

This is an informational site to aid in understanding the grieving process of children and teenagers.

Children's Grief Education Association- This site contains 800 numbers for emergency use. It also has sites specifically for military families, teenagers and children.


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    • profile image

      Linda 4 years ago

      k- who is seven yrs old lost her mom recently. she and her mom became very close to us by special affinity. i was at a loss, grieving for her mom but also is so concerned how and what to do since we somehow lost touch wyl she stayed w her dad but was so relieved when her dad allowed me and my daughter to visit her. now, i am trying to gather and read books on how to comfort and handle a grieving child. glad i found sites like this. thank you

    • profile image

      Julius 5 years ago

      I lost my spouse exactly nine days after her birthday 23rd April,2012 after almost two years of battling with cancer.My children seven,seven and five asked some unimaginable questions,which we tried to answer.Even when I needed to take out time to rest as a result of accumulated stress of going up and down while my wife was sick,I still discovered that they needed my presence so I had to speak with them on daily basis through phone.At long run I had to truncate my leave so as for them not to Miss me too much ,inspire of the the fact that they feel a home where they are.

    • Moms-Secret profile image

      Lissette 6 years ago from Central Florida

      I am so happy to have found this hub right now. I really wish my area had a mourning star center. I can't thank you enough. I am planning on linking it to my hub.

    • profile image

      Debbie 6 years ago

      I watched your video that was very informative. I noticed that all the kids are grieving the loss of a parent what about the loss of a brother? My son was killed in a motorcycle accident on August 30. Is this for sibling loss as well?

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 9 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks Beth. :)

    • betherickson profile image

      betherickson 9 years ago from Minnesota

      Hello Amy. Great hub. I love reading it. Good work. :) I'm giving you a thumb's up.

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 10 years ago from Connecticut

      THank you all for your comments :)

    • MM Del Rosario profile image

      MM Del Rosario 10 years ago from NSW, Australia

      i think some of the mistakes of adults, including me is trying to tell them what to do, and we want to protect them from being sad, but as you have said , if they feel bad, they need to feel bad and its okay. They are entitled to their feelings, whatever they are. And they can dwell on them if they need to.

      thanks for this one,

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 10 years ago from California

      amy jane

      Wonderful HUB. Thank you for the information. A child's loss is as real as an adult.

    • sminut13 profile image

      sminut13 10 years ago from singapore

      thks for your tips.