Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Children living with loss


Tuesday 13 November 2018

Most of us working in the early years sector have experienced grief at some point in our lives, whether in childhood or in our adult lives. This holds true for the families and children we work with. As early years educators, we must be aware that children grieve too. While children assume that their family will always stay the same, research indicates that two in every 100 9-year-olds in Ireland have lost a parent. Loss of other important people in a young child’s world can include siblings, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents or other close loved ones. Death can be frightening for children, who may not have the information to help them to understand what is happening. Unlike adults, children dip in and out of grief. It can be intermittent and intense but can also pass quickly, distracted by friends and activities.

Each child in a family grieves differently due to their personality, gender, and the relationship they have with the person who has died. Bereaved children are best supported in their natural environment and not all bereaved children need professional support. It is okay to be sad with your bereaved child. They need to be given time and space to remember the person and, in some cases, it can be supportive for them to meet with other bereaved children.

What children say helps and it is important to be available to talk when the child wants to talk. It is also important to acknowledge that their loss is important. Honest information helps a child to understand. Taking part in the goodbye ritual and having a part to play in it can be very beneficial for children. When telling a child that a loved one has died, the words used should be clear, such as dead or died – it is not helpful to use terms such as ‘gone’, ‘gone to sleep’, ‘gone to Heaven’, ‘passed away’, etc. as this can be very confusing and the child may either expect the person to come back or that they can go and visit them.

As early years educators, we may need to provide some extra support in the period that follows a bereavement. This should be appropriate to the child’s developmental stage and the wishes of the family. It is important to remember that children’s grief is different from that of adults and children grieve in spurts – sometimes several times a day. At those times, their grief can be very intense. Children need to know it is okay to play and have fun and not be sad all the time. You might consider buying some books on bereavement to help you support a young child who is grieving, or who may experience the loss of a loved one in the near future.


This week sees the third National Bereaved Children’s Awareness Week. This is intended to highlight the needs of bereaved children and ways to support them through difficult periods of loss. The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network (ICBN) will host a national event, ‘Children Grieve Too’, at Dublin City Council Civic Offices, Wood Quay, Dublin 8. This will take place on Thursday 15 November from 10am until 3:30pm.


Useful links: 

The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network provide support and information in relation to children and loss. It advocates for bereaved children, young people, and their families. A number of useful resources are available on its website:



Phil Lynch, (M.Sc.) is an Early Childhood Specialist in Research and Professional Learning with Early Childhood Ireland. She has worked in the early childhood education and care sector for over thirty-five years as an early year’s and adult educator, lecturer and mentor. Keen areas of interest are the quality of pedagogical leadership and the importance of continuing professional learning.

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Rising to the Challenge(2) imotion(1) development(8) Creativity(6) Trigonometry(1) Decision Making(1) Light table(1) Frustrations(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) UNCRC(2) early years settings(1) Workplace Relations(3) Celebrations(4) Socioemotional development(1) Breathing(2) outdoor environment(1) Elders(1) Orla Kenny(1) Dance(1) Playschool(1) children’s learning(1) Mixed age groups(3) Awards(2) Reopening Childcare(1) Book Club(2) European Project(1) Digital(1) reading(5) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Twitter(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) outdoor space(3) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) play(35) Investment(2) Party(1) EECERA(1) christmas(9) Spiders(1) apps for children(1) Patterns(1) refugees(1) Qualifications(1) Independence(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) Montessori(3) Favouritism(1) bloom app(1) play pod(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Snack Time(1) child-centric(1) Treasure(1) early life(1) Vietnam(1) gender stereotype(1) Identity and Belonging(4) coronavirus(1) Drawing(2) National Research Conference 2019(1) Builders(1) Counting(1) Nonverbal(1) Imagination(3) Awards 2018(3) Covid pandemic(2) early childhood educator(2) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Malaguzzi(1) Early Years(1) Touch(1) Glitter(2) Sweets(1) Participation(2) meals(3) Care-giving routines(1) Pobal sector profile(1) play pods(2) Plastic(1) memories(1) Arithmetic(1) early years research(2) Intention(1) Mealtimes(1) University(1) listening(1) grandchild(1) Fee Play(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Staff Motivation(1) Early Childhood Ireland(10) research submissions(1) Norway(2) Sociodramatic play(1) reopening ireland(1) HR(1) INTO(1) DES Inspection(1) Mathematicians(1) Sustainable(1) RIE philosphy(1) Creative(1) Awards Night(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Wonder(1) scéalta(56) code of ethics(1) Kindness(1) Our Little Seed(1) baby room(1) Confident(1) education(2) playleader(1) Maria Montessori(1) Meal time(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Celebrate(1) show and tell(1) curriculum(5) Yoga(1) education system(1) Giraffe(2) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Recycle(1) Inter-generational(2) Facebook(1) Inclusion(3) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Exercise(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Leprechauns(1) TOY Programme(1) Brain(1) Online Research Symposium(1) Wendy Lee(3) Pre-School Services(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Online(1) phone apps(1) Jenga(1) Visitors(1) Time Out(1) Engineers Week(2) Love(3) Employee(1) Laugh(1) Capable(1) Diversity(1) Interaction(1) Valentine's Day(3) mushrooms(1) Educators(2) Music(3) Infectious diseases(1) Competent(1) Scéalta Blog(104) Reading Time(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Degree(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Family wall(1) Cork(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Rituals(1) Proceedings Journal(1) maternity health(1) healthy eating policies(1) awards 2020(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) School Age Childcare(1) Body Language(1) educarer(1) Trade union(1) Maths Week(1) dogs(1) educating(1) COVID-19 landscape(1) Tuscan Approach(2) stories(3) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Mantra(1) bonds(1) Identity(5) Arts(1) emotions(2) pablo(1) learning hub(1) Early Childhood Education(1) Primary School(3) Mount Everest(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Flowers(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) dublin(2) Document Learning(1) Pedagogy(2) Affordability(1) trust(4) MA(1) European Early Childhood Education Research Association(2) Painting(1) AIM(2) Family(1) EM Standing(1) Challenges(1) Reggio Emilia(2) National Holiday(1) budget(1) Storytelling(7) babies(7) Magda Gerber(1) Event Guide(1) Horizon 2020(1) Return to Work Training(1) Síolta(137) Empathy(1) Quality(4) Little Buddies(1) Leargas(1) Sustainability(3) National Awards 2019(1) Treasure Chest(1) family time(1) Mark Twain(1) Nutrition(1) Learning Stories(9) Environment(2) Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Professionalisation(5) Aldo Fortunati(4) Childhood(1) Graduate(1) EECERA 2016(1) Inter-generational learning(2) books(4) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Plants(1) Super Shed Stories(2) annual conference(1) eating(1) Large Doll Play(1) Performing(1) Awards 2019(1) Afghanistan(1) Self-regulation(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) COVID-19 crisis(1) Learning through Storytelling(1) Budget 2020(1) Study Trip(1) Adoption(1) Exit interview(1) Mindfulness(3) E.coli(1) Mental Health(4) Sessional service(1) supportive environments(2) Inspired Practice Award(6) early childhood(1) Masterclass(2) Bereavement(2) Inspirational(2) Winter(1) ICBN(1) social media(2) toddlers(3) COVID-19(14) Well-Being(10) Digital Devices(1) Leaders in Practice(1) Book Review(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Magnavacchi(1) communication(4) Scents(1) Craft(1) Queues(1) Maynooth(1) Siolta blog(8) Equality(1) Albert Einstein(1) Policy(2) Wrapping paper(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Belonging(3) Maths Week Ireland(1) outdoor play(6) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Art(6) community(5) SPICE Framework(1) Learning Journal(2) Wilenski(1) continual professional development(1) purpose(1) New Appointments(1) june29(1) blog(53) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) Easter(1) Engagement(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Supernanny(1) Funding(1) social science(1) Advocacy(1) role playing(1) Community involvement(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Recycling(2) keep in touch(1) Exploratory Play(1) Smiles(1) multi-generational community(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) learners(1) AsIAm(2) National Pyjama Day(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Prexit(1) Mud kitchens(1) conference(1) Line-ups(1) Oireachtas(1) Buddies(1) Meet the Members(1) Santa(2) Kindness Challenge(1) ELC(1) aistear blog(3) Pen green(1) Decisions(1) preschool(4) Your place(1) Games(1) Covid response(2) behavioural science(1) GDPR(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Leadership(1) learning(19) Special Needs Assistants(1) Running(1) Early Years Educators(3) Support(1) democracy(1) Shapes(2) Through the looking glass(1) children development(1) Biting(1) dining experiences(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Sleep(1) Positivity(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) ERASMUS+(3) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Design(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Titles(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) online training(1) gender bias(1) Learning Story Awards(2) World Health Organisation(1) Exclusion(1) Snakes(1) Stress(2) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) transitions(10) listen(1) Workplace well-being(1) Snacks(1) code of professional responsibility(1) ECIAwards20(1) Exploring(1) creche(1) Health(2) learning bias(1) ECEC Setting(2) First 5(1) Fabric(1) Japan(1) Children's Rights(3) respect(5) Cognitive development(1) Training(2) Culture(2) Technology(3) Map(1) man up(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) under 3's(3) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Pretend Play(1) Mayo(1) food(1) Playdough(1) story time(2) collaboration(1) Maynooth University(2) racism(1) ECCE(7) linc(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) GoToMeeting app(1) Traffic Lights(1) Loving Relationships(2) worries(1) Potential(1) Home Corner(1) Social Skills(1) National Annual Awards 2020(1) IGL(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Anxiety(2) Fantasy play(1) an post(1) friendships(1) Traditions(2) keezy(1) Children's Research Network(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) Reflective Practice(1) Children(4) lockdown(1) Loss(1) Learning Story(1) Sequins(1) Research Seminar(1) Italy(1) Upcycling(1) Academic Skills(1) Change(1) pets(1) Buddy Bench(1) Certificate(1) Obesity(1) Consent(1) interacting(2) Wesco(1) curiosity(3) inspiring interactions(1) journey(1) Mo Scéal(1) RTE Investigates(1) Children and families(1) Child mental health(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Performance Management(1) Arlene Forster(1) Routines(2) risk(2) Síolta QAP(1) Feeding(1) Seanchaí(1) Photographs(1) Inspections(1) parents(6) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Budget 2018(1) peer group(1) emotional well-being(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Seas Suas(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Infection Control(1) Anthony Semann(1) social media policy(1) ECEC(3) conversations(1) Whole Group(1) Covid19 crisis(1) CPD(1) Death(2) Care routines(1) Confidence(1) Story(2) democratic citizens(1) Small World Play(1) Xbox(1) SAC(1) feisty(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Syria(1) Irish guidelines(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Thinking(1) Trick or treat(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Role play(1) Trade Unions(1) value(1) The Jelly King(1) preschool settings(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Covid-19 lockdown(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Eritrea(1) developing motor skills(1) Magic(1) Gratitude(1) NCCA(3) Gardening(1) childcare services(1) Looking Back(1) Self-Esteem(1) ReCreate(2) Communicating(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Kerry(1) Irish(1) Academics(1) College(1) TRAP(1) science(3) Thank you(1) Childcare(3) movement behaviours(1) Limerick(1) San Miniato(4) Opportunities(1) Reggio(1) Teamwork(1) Self Help Skills(1) Early Years Education(1) Names(1) primary education(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) structure(1) Margy Whalley(1) Behaviour(3) science week(2) Kids Own(1) DCYA(6) experience(1) Grief(1) Nuturing interactions(1) UD(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) research(6) Appreciation(1) Vertical grouping(1) Engineering(3) outdoors(4) Building Resilience(1) Shoes(1) Graduation(1) Penguins(1) Window(1) life long learning(1) Iraq(1) Summer(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Time(1) overhear(1) Weather(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Maths(6) Autism(4) Human Resources(1) Aistear(130) Looking Forward(1) early years learning(1) documentation(4) Communications(1) relationships(18) Learning journals(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Pobal(1) Laughter(1) Relaxation(1) Sculptures(1) risk assessment(1) National Awards 2018(2) Maternity Leave(1) UN(1) child-centred approach(1) STEM(3) Visual Impairment(1) responsive relationships(1) reopening(1) Research Conference 2019(1) UNICEF report(1) Rich Documentation(1) ears(1) routine(2) art of the relationship(1) annual awards(1) mental health problems(1) Hand Hygiene(2) CIT(1) Workforce(1) emotional environment(2) play therapy(1) Thanks(1) PIP(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) Youtube Series(1) Interests(1) MECPI(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Kilkenny(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Inspiring Practice(1) youdoodle(1) Universal Design(2) Administrative Burden(1) environments(1) animals(2) Sport(1) planning(1) Budget 2019(2) Settling in(4) Child Care(1) Ceremony(1) risky play(2) CCTV(1) Halloween(2) play stories(2) Iceland(1) Impact(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Motor neuron disease(1) International Narratives(1) Children's Voice(1) iOS(1) United Nations(1) Ariana Pucci(1) dining(1) staying connected(1) Lego(2) NAEYC(1) quarantine(1) First 5 strategy(1) Interactions(3) Blocks(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine