College of Veterinary Medicine
Pet Memorial Program

Helping Children Cope with Grief

Helping Children Cope with GriefA guide for parents

  • Talk with your child; provide simple, accurate answers to questions

  • Talk with your child about your feelings

  • Listen to what your child says and how he/she says it. Does the child display fear, anxiety, or insecurity about the subject being discussed?

  • Reassure your child. For example, tell the child "We are all together in this. I care about you and will help you through this. We'll all stick together."

  • Your child may need to hear you repeat information and reassurances several times. Don't become impatient if this happens.

  • Hold your child. Provide comfort. Touching is important for everyone in a crisis.

  • Spend extra time at bedtime, talk and offer reassurance. Leave a night-light on if necessary.

  • Observe your child at play. Frequently children will act out feelings of fear, anger or grief while playing dolls, trucks, etc.

  • Provide experiences for them to relieve tension, like Play-Doh, painting, water play. If they display a need to kick or hit, provide them with a pillow or a ball and encourage safe anger

  • If your child has a meaningful object or toy, allow the child to rely on it somewhat more than usual.

  • If you are worried about your child's reaction, seek professional assistance, and do it early to maximize the benefits.

Also see Child Grief in Grief within the Family.