What is grief?

Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away. Loss can be categorised as either physical or abstract, the physical loss being related to something that the individual can touch or measure, while other types of loss are abstract, and relate to aspects of a person’s social interactions.Grief may not feel normal but it is. Everyone will grieve in their own way. You may experience all sorts of feelings or you may feel nothing. You may find it easy to talk or you might bottle all of your emotions up.Grief is:

“A massive bundle of different emotions and intense feelings. Feeling sad and missing somebody. Love happens and people die in your family. Someone who has lost someone and they can’t get over it. You cry over someone dying. You cry then you stop. Then you cry, then you stop.” – Member of our Young People’s Advisory Group (Child Bereavement UK).

How we grieve

Few people go through life without experiencing the death of someone they love. Death is a part of life, it is inevitable and sooner or later we have to face up to that reality. Through the process of grieving we learn how to cope with the future in spite of our loss. How well we manage this affects our quality of life and our ability to relate to others, say experienced counsellors Julia Samuel and Jenni Thomas. In Victorian times death was part of life and there were rituals of mourning to comfort the bereaved. This is not the case now. With improved health care our expectations are that those we love will live until old age. If they do become ill or have an accident we hope that science and technology will be able to fix it. Because of this death, when it comes, is harder to bear. In a desire not to intrude and as a self-defence mechanism, relatives and friends may ignore the loss and pretend it never happened. Bereaved people are often shunned. They quickly learn that if they hide their feelings people will feel more comfortable with them. Yet it is only by acknowledging and finding ways of expressing painful feelings that you can grieve for the person who has died.


As a parent, what can you do to help a child who has just lost a loved one?

 When a loved one dies, children feel and show their grief in different ways. How kids cope with the loss depends on things like their age, how close they felt to the person who died, and the support they receive.

Here are some things parents can do to help a child who has lost a loved one:


When someone special dies– for children under 7

If  you're under 7 and have lost someone special, you might find this activity from Child Bereavement UK very helpful. 

You can ask an adult to help you.