Supporting a child with grief and loss during the Covid-19 pandemic

When experiencing grief and loss, it can be hard to know how best to support your child - especially if you were unable to be with your loved one when they died due to lockdown restrictions. Our Parents Helpline experts share their advice.

If a loved one has died during the coronavirus pandemic

If your child, as well as you and the rest of your family, weren’t able to be with your loved one in-person when they died, this may feel incredibly painful and difficult to accept.

While everyone will react to and deal with this differently, it may leave your child feeling that the person’s death doesn’t feel real, that something is unfinished or unresolved – or even guilty that they weren’t there, and worried about whether the person was okay.

What can help

If you’re supporting your child in these incredibly difficult circumstances, it’s helpful to:

  • acknowledge with them just how painful this is, and how unfair it might feel that they didn’t get to say goodbye in-person
  • think with them about other ways they could say goodbye. This might be lighting a candle, letting off balloons, saying a prayer or poem, writing a letter, planting a flower or tree, or visiting the grave or another special place
  • make sure they understand that not being there was not their choice – that it was outside of everyone’s control, and that it was impossible for them to be with the person
  • let them know that it’s okay to feel however they feel, whether that’s sad, overwhelmed, angry, worried or something else – and that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve
  • offer opportunities for them to talk to you about how they’re feeling when they’re ready, focusing on listening and empathising with what it’s like for them
  • reassure them that you love them, you’re there for them, they’re not alone, and they can talk to you whenever they need to

The lockdown restrictions also mean that funerals are not happening as they normally would. This can include only immediate family or friends being able to attend, people in vulnerable groups being unable to attend, and those at the funeral being expected to follow social distancing guidelines.

Cruse Bereavement Care suggest families in this situation can:

  • talk to the funeral directors about whether the service can be live-streamed so that everyone can be part of it, and so those at the funeral feel the support of others
  • hold a wake or gathering online after the funeral or on another day
  • find ways of doing rituals at home – such as holding a smaller service, listening to a piece of music, saying prayers, singing, reading poems and sharing memories of the person who has died

Supporting a young person who is grieving

However a young person has lost someone, grieving without normal daily routines and face-to-face support networks can be really difficult. If you’re supporting your child in this situation, here are some things that may help:

  1. Remind them that family and friends are still there, and they can talk to them whenever they want to via video calls or online.
  2. Offer opportunities for them to talk to you about how they’re feeling, while also giving them space to grieve in the ways that work for them. Especially with teenagers, this might include thinking about where in the house they can get some time to themselves during lockdown – for example by using a rota to share rooms
  3. Think with them about things that might help them communicate or express how they’re feeling. This could be:

    • writing a letter to the person they have lost telling them all the things they want to say to them
    • writing a letter to you or someone else who is supporting them, so you or they know what they are going through
    • keeping a diary or journal of how they feel
    • making paintings or pictures
    • writing songs or poems
    • creating a memory box full of pictures and items – such as films, clothes and perfume – that remind them of good times they had with the person they have lost.
  4. Think with them about the activities that help them to cope with difficult situations in normal life, and which of these they can still do during lockdown. This could be running, drawing, listening to music, talking to friends, watching a favourite film, cooking or baking, or reading a book.
  5. Encourage them to keep doing these activities if they want to. Reassure them that it’s okay to have a good time and enjoy something – and that this does not take away from how much they care about the person who’s died.

More information and advice on grief and loss

For more information and advice on grief and loss, have a look at our page on supporting your child with grief and loss.

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