Death of a child
Losing a child or baby
The loss of a child or baby will initially cause major shock for everyone in the family.
Ask your health professional if they can give you information on how to explain the death of your child to your other children.
You will be feeling very vulnerable and children will naturally have a lot of questions. To help them make sense of their thoughts and feelings, you will need a way to explain what has happened in a child-friendly way. Talking helps everyone process what has happened in an honest and healthy way.
Talking about death
See our loss and bereavement pages for different ways to explain death. There are some useful videos to watch that may help.
Why aren’t my children sad?
Children are likely to have lots of confused feelings, they may be sad and weepy, and then happy and excitable. Be prepared, because children live in the moment and their feelings and how they show them may catch you by surprise. Even if this is the middle of the supermarket, take time to respond.
You do not have to have all the answers, you just have to be there to listen and to hold them.
The feelings your children might have
They may be numb at first, not knowing what to say or what to do. They may be lost and confused at your distress and want to help. Give them age appropriate caring tasks such as making tea, baking together, bringing you teddy bears, giving you cuddles, plumping your pillows, etc.
They may also feel sad for losing the baby and disappointed because they will not have a new brother or sister to play with.
They may feel guilty for even feeling happy and excited in the first place. They may also feel guilty because they may have been a little bit jealous of the new baby. They may previously have displayed anger because they were worried about being displaced and may feel responsible for doing something that caused baby to die.
Be prepared for feelings of anger – anger at you because you did not bring a baby home to play with, or angry because the situation has made them feel lost, sad and lonely.
They may also feel scared because they think something bad will happen to other people they care for and become anxious at school drop off or if you are late for collection at the end of the day.
Preparing for goodbyes
It can help children to be involved in the process of choosing flowers, songs, prayers or pictures. You may want to take advice from your funeral director about how to explain funerals in a child-friendly way or whether younger children should attend the funeral.
If they do not attend, they can say goodbyes in another way, such as lighting candles or doing crafting activities, making memory boxes or special bracelets.
Sadness is not forever
Grieving is a natural process and strong feelings will eventually feel smaller. The video below helps explain how your life grows around your grief to cushion the pain.
It does not mean you love the person less. The child who has died will always be part of the family and they will always be important, loved and remembered.
I need help
- Reach out to family as much as possible. They may want or need to feel useful.
- Let school know what has happened and if there will be any changes to pick up arrangements, and the funeral date. We can keep an eye out and support your children in school better if we know what has happened.
- Please make sure you tell us if you are using particular scripts, e.g. ‘baby has gone to heaven’ so we can use these too.
I am feeling overwhelmed
This is an overwhelming time. If you need additional support, please speak to a family bereavement service – the details are on our loss and bereavement page.
Specific support for bereavement for brother and sisters can be found here: https://www.tcf.org.uk/content/support/