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Support for children and teenagers

Helping them through a difficult time

Generally, children under four or five years old do not understand that a person who has died will not come back. Children often need to be reminded of this again and again.

Children experience the passage of time differently from adults and can therefore appear to overcome grief quite quickly. However, children in their early school years may need reassuring that they are not responsible for the death of a close friend or relative as they often blame themselves for one reason or another. This is something that anyone who is bereaved may experience but it is particularly common for this age group.

If you are caring for grieving children, it is important to share your grief. Even very young children experience grief and need to be given the opportunity to express their feelings. You may want to protect your child from the pain of grief but as one mother said: “It isn’t a choice of whether she will hurt or not but whether I will know about it”.

Children often know more than adults realise and they need honest information to help them make sense of what has happened. If you are unsure about how to support your child then it may be helpful to talk to your GP, health visitor, practice nurse, social worker, support group or someone else with experience in such matters.

We can offer information and support to children and teenagers

We don’t provide care for children who are ill, but we do help and support the children of the people we care for at our nine hospices or through our network of Marie Curie Nurses.

If you are caring for a child or teenager with a life-limiting illness and would like to find information or support there are many organisations that can help.

Serious illness in the family is hard to cope with. For children and teenagers this can be a very difficult time. Likewise, when someone close dies there can be a feeling of great loss, sadness and stress for the family.

Most hospices can help children and teenagers if they need bereavement care or counselling.

Our nine Marie Curie Hospices have trained professionals who are experienced in supporting children to adjust to changes in their circumstances. They can get to know children or grandchildren and focus on how best to support them.

If you don’t live near a hospice we have four booklets to help children and teenagers which you can download at the bottom of this page.

If you would like a printed copy of the booklets please call us on 0800 716 146, or write to:
Supporter Services,
Marie Curie Cancer Care,
89 Albert Embankment,
SE1 7TP.

Other organisations

The Child Bereavement Charity

0800 1111 (24 hour helpline).
Keep on trying if you don’t get through at first.

Cruse Bereavement Care Youthline
08088 081 677

Cruse Bereavement Care Helpline
08444 779 400

Riprap – helping young people cope when their parent has cancer

The Samaritans
08457 909 090

Winston’s Wish Family Line
08452 030 405
(Monday to Friday 9.30am – 4.30pm).

Please note: Marie Curie Cancer Care provides links to third party websites where appropriate and is not responsible for the availability or content of any of these linked sites.

Finding the words - how to support children when someone close dies

This booklet has been written especially for people who are supporting a bereaved child. It looks at the different stages of children’s grief and their reactions, changes in their behaviour and how to talk to them about death.
Download file
Finding the words - how to support children when someone close dies (PDF).

How are you feeling? Coping with grief as a teenager

This booklet, written for teenagers, explains some of the feelings and emotions they may experience when someone dies. It looks at how they can remember the person, gives organisations that they can turn to for help and lists books to help them with their grief.
Download file
How are you feeling? Coping with grief as a teenager (PDF).
How are you feeling? Coping with grief as a teenager
Category: Documents
(PDF format, 285KB)

Questions children may want to ask

Sometimes adults think the best way to protect a child is to avoid talking about the person who has died or about their death. It’s important to let your child know that you are there when, and if, they want to talk. This booklet looks at some of the questions children may want to ask when someone close to them has died and suggests how adults might answer.
Download file
Questions children may want to ask
Questions children may want to ask
Category: Documents
(PDF format, 521KB)

Talking to children when someone close is very ill

Telling children early on that someone in the family has a serious illness may help to prevent problems arising and reduce difficulties later. This booklet helps people to start to talk to children or grandchildren. It considers who should tell children about the illness and when to tell them, as well offering a list of books to help different age groups.
Download file
Talking to children when someone close is very ill
Talking to children when someone close is very ill
Category: Documents
(PDF format, 488KB)

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