Chapter 1: Support strategies

Strategies for talking about grief

The expert says
Andrea Warnick, children's grief therapist, talk about giving permission to feel relief when someone has died. (3:22)Video transcript

Our best conversations seem to happen when I'm getting Manon to bed. 


The emotions that come with grief can be overwhelming for children of all ages.  Helping them to understand the word grief, and what it means, can have a calming effect and help them feel less confused by the intensity of their thoughts and feelings. It can also help them to learn that grief isn’t dangerous or destructive – it’s a natural part of living.


Explaining grief

  • Grief is all of the feelings and thoughts we have when something really difficult happens in life. These may include: sad, mad, relief, guilt and exhaustion. 
  • Causes of grief can include: illness, death, divorce, being separated from parents or other caregivers, relocating to a new community.
  • It’s okay to feel happy and enjoy life even when we’re grieving. 

Starting a conversation

  • Offer children the chance to talk about their grief but don’t force it. Pushing a conversation they don't want to have can have the opposite effect, leading them to shut down.  
  • Create opportunities where conversation happens naturally such as:
    • Playing board games.
    • Spending time in nature.
    • Baking or cooking together.
    • Going for a hike, walk or drive.  
  • When there's a death in a book or movie, or the family pet dies, use this as an opportunity to talk about grief.