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Dealing with other children in a grief situation

Children of various ages have different concepts of death.


They do not have a real concept of death. Death has little meaning to them. They can sense a parent’s sadness, fears and anger, and become upset or afraid. As they are not able to communicate their needs, fear is often expressed as crying.


They view death as temporary or reversible and believe that the baby can come back. They may question repeatedly ‘why’ and ‘how’ death occurs. They may feel that their thoughts or actions may have caused the loss. They can experience feelings of guilt and shame.

School-age children

They have a better understanding of death and know that death is permanent and final. They may ask more factual questions about the loss and are curious about the physical process of death and what happens after that. They are aware that death affects self and the whole family.


They understand the concept of death as adults do. They may feel that they are immune to it or conversely obsess and worry about their own health. They usually appreciate the truth about the consequences of the loss. They have a very good perception of other’s reactions. They may be embarrassed by the issue of death and avoid discussing it due to fears of being different from their friends.

How to break the news to children

Explaining a pregnancy loss to a child can be a very difficult task for the parents. Choose a comfortable setting and ensure there is adequate time to touch on the matter. Parents can choose to break the news together but ensure that both parents provide consistent answers.

  • Tell the truth. Do not be afraid to use the word ‘death’ or ‘dead’, terms like ‘asleep’ and ‘went away from us’ can be confusing for young children and may cause them to develop fears in association with such common events.
  • Take your time to explain. Speak slowly and allow time for your child to absorb what was said. Pause often and use their reactions and questions as a gauge for the pace. You may need to repeat your explanations and provide more information based on what your child asks. They may ask you about the loss several hours, days or weeks after they have been first told as they think about the loss.
  • Share your grief. Do not be afraid to show your grief to your children as you are communicating a healthy way of responding to a loss. Encourage them to share and express their grief as well.
  • Assure your child. The concept of death may be difficult to grasp and your child may become afraid. If you are religious or spiritual, explaining your beliefs, e.g. the existence of an afterlife may help them to feel better.
  • Address any difficult emotions that your child may feel. A child can feel frustrated, angry and even confused. This may sometimes be because they feel guilty as they think that they may have caused the loss. Check for such thoughts and feelings with your child and correct them as soon as possible.
  • Signify the loss with a memorial event. Regardless of your child’s age, consider doing something together as a family to formally bid farewell to the loss of the baby, e.g. release a balloon together.

A child’s grief

A child grieves differently from an adult and it may be difficult for parents to understand. A child can sway easily between feeling sad one moment and engaging in fun and play the next moment. This often puzzles parents who may think that their child is unaffected by the loss. This is not so. Play is an important way for children to sort out their thoughts and feelings.

A child may also show his grief in exhibiting unusual behaviour. He may become more clingy, fearful or withdrawn, at times refusing to go to school or he may become more angry, aggressive or active. These behaviours require much patience and understanding from parents. Parents may not be able to provide an adequate level of care as their emotional energy may be at the lowest. Try to get extended family members to assist so that the parents can have some respite.