Resources to Support Families
These resources can be used by parents or caregivers to support their children when someone in their life is dying or has died.
As parents, we wonder, “How can this sort of thing happen? Is my family safe? Is the world we live in safe?” We feel helpless, numb, terrified, angry, profoundly sad, and we ask ourselves, “How do I handle this? Where to from here?” Here are some things you can do for yourself and your family.
After a death, many decisions need to be made fairly quickly, including about funeral or memorial services. Parents often wrestle with whether it is appropriate for their children to attend the service and what they should consider.
When someone in our world dies suddenly, there can be a profound impact on us. In the hours and days following a death, our bodies and mind respond in many ways: from numbness and silence to outbursts and busy bodies. All these responses are normal.
When a child or teen has experienced the death of someone in their lives, the thought of going back to school often brings additional challenges. When faced with this situation, parents can do a few things to help their children feel safe and give them a sense of stability.
Families face numerous changes and losses, and life can feel like a roller coaster when someone close to them has a life-threatening illness. The following is a guide to help you identify common responses for the teenagers in your life.
When someone has a life-threatening illness, their whole family is impacted by the many changes, concerns, and uncertainties. Adults may choose to avoid talking to children about the illness to protect them from pain and distress. However, consider that children can typically feel when something is going on in their family even when they are not told. When they are not informed, they often feel excluded, alone, and isolated. They may even think that they have caused the anxiety and unsettled state of their family.
A child or teen’s grief is impacted by many factors, including the circumstances of the death. A death by suicide can merit special considerations for the bereaved due to its associated stigma, sudden nature, and the confusion that often follows. Unfortunately, because of people’s discomfort with the subject of suicide, young people can be left unsupported and isolated.
Grief responses are individual, and each teen’s grief experience will be unique. That said, the following guide can help you identify some of the common grief responses in teenagers after a death.
Children grieve differently than adults: they grieve in doses, alternating between times of play and intense emotions. A child’s age, developmental stage, and experiences will determine their understanding of death and ability to cope with the death of someone in their life. As well, children often “re-grieve” the loss as they move through life.
Did you know we have Lunch & Learn sessions and recordings for parents?
From Other Organizations
- Canadian Alliance for Grieving Children and Youth
- National Alliance for Children’s Grief
- Preparing Emotionally for Disasters or Emergencies
- Psychological First Aid After a Disaster
- Responding to a Disaster or Emergency
- Helping Children and Teens Recover from a Disaster or Emergency
- Recovery After a Disaster or Emergency
Videos en français
Suggested Books for Families
The book titles below will link you to Goodreads. There, you’ll find reviews and information about the book. Most of these books can be borrowed from the Library or purchased from book stores.
A Parent's Guide to Raising Grieving Children: Rebuilding Your Family after the Death of a Loved One
But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Families After a Suicide
Caregiving And Loss: Family Needs, Professional Responses
Catching Your Breath in Grief: ...and grace will lead you home
Companioning the Grieving Child: A Soulful Guide for Caregivers
Everywhere and All Around
Healing a Teen's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Families, Friends and Caregivers
Help Me Say Goodbye: Activities for Helping Kids Cope When a Special Person Dies
Helping Children Grieve, Revised Edition: When Someone They Love Dies
Fatherloss: How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms with the Deaths of Their Dads
Finding the Words: How to Talk with Children and Teens about Death, Suicide, Homicide, Funerals, Cremation, and other End-of-Life Matters
I Miss You: A First Look At Death
In My Heart: A Book of Feelings
Life Is Like the Wind
Never Too Young to Know: Death in Children's Lives
Rafi’s Red Racing Car: Explaining Suicide and Grief to Young Children
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
Talking about Death: A Dialogue Between Parent and Child
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss
Teen Grief Relief: Parenting with Understanding, Support and Guidance
The Invisible String
by Patrice Karst
The Invisible Web: A Story Celebrating Love and Universal Connection
The Memory Box: A Book About Grief
by Joanna Rowland
Whimsy's Heavy Things
Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You
When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief
Waterbugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children
The Rabbit Listened
by Cori Doerrfeld