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:

Builders(1) Awards 2019(1) Sustainability(3) Training(2) Workforce(1) Ceremony(1) Map(1) Universal Design(2) conversations(1) Leadership(1) Treasure Chest(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) education(2) Technology(3) Games(1) transitions(10) learning(19) Research Conference 2019(1) SPICE Framework(1) Sweets(1) social media(1) Frustrations(1) blog(28) science(3) Childcare(2) Hand Hygiene(1) Albert Einstein(1) DES Inspection(1) Empathy(1) communication(4) STEM(3) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Playdough(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Nonverbal(1) supportive environments(2) MA(1) bloom app(1) Storytelling(5) COVID-19(1) Super Shed Stories(1) Certificate(1) Policy(2) Painting(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Breathing(2) Gardening(1) Pobal(1) risk(2) Iraq(1) Italy(1) Giraffe(2) Care routines(1) Lego(2) ReCreate(2) UD(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Arithmetic(1) feisty(1) Party(1) conference(1) Human Resources(1) Decision Making(1) parents(6) DCYA(4) Exit interview(1) Wilenski(1) TOY Programme(1) Engagement(1) Children and families(1) Obesity(1) Rich Documentation(1) science week(2) Through the looking glass(1) Smiles(1) University(1) story time(2) Story(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Wrapping paper(1) emotional environment(1) preschool settings(1) Affordability(1) Margy Whalley(1) Graduation(1) Adoption(1) Vertical grouping(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Magda Gerber(1) Laugh(1) Decisions(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Routines(1) Dance(1) dining experiences(1) play(32) Reggio(1) Favouritism(1) Children's Voice(1) Qualifications(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Brain(1) Rituals(1) mushrooms(1) Síolta(110) journey(1) apps for children(1) Identity(5) Vietnam(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Biting(1) outdoors(3) Educators(2) Shapes(1) preschool(3) Meet the Members(1) School Age Childcare(1) Titles(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Snack Time(1) Mental Health(3) Little Buddies(1) CPD(1) code of ethics(1) Queues(1) Document Learning(1) Japan(1) Limerick(1) Self Help Skills(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Diversity(1) Appreciation(1) Magic(1) Easter(1) educarer(1) Orla Kenny(1) E.coli(1) man up(1) Professionalisation(5) TRAP(1) Maria Montessori(1) Building Resilience(1) listen(1) memories(1) christmas(9) iOS(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Quality(4) ECEC(2) Celebrate(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Digital(1) Time Out(1) Investment(2) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Interactions(2) Communicating(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) curriculum(5) Names(1) gender stereotype(1) Event Guide(1) friendships(1) Flowers(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Bereavement(2) Academic Skills(1) Meal time(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) MECPI(1) Sport(1) animals(2) Inspired Practice Award(5) National Holiday(1) Kilkenny(1) Primary School(2) Art(6) ERASMUS+(3) value(1) Engineers Week(2) Oireachtas(1) Family(1) pets(1) Home Corner(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Running(1) AIM(2) Learning journals(1) Weather(1) Drawing(2) Wendy Lee(3) Children(3) Body Language(1) Halloween(2) Sculptures(1) Well-Being(9) Competent(1) Thanks(1) routine(2) scéalta(30) Aistear(116) Kids Own(1) Leaders in Practice(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Maynooth(1) College(1) Magnavacchi(1) Patterns(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Recycle(1) Window(1) Trade Unions(1) overhear(1) Line-ups(1) youdoodle(1) stories(2) Trick or treat(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Impact(1) Celebrations(4) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Annual Conference 2019(1) Socioemotional development(1) aistear blog(3) Reading Time(1) ears(1) learning bias(1) United Nations(1) Loss(1) Mark Twain(1) environments(1) Challenges(1) maternity health(1) Inspections(1) Love(2) Death(2) Feeding(1) Children's Rights(3) Mixed age groups(2) Montessori(3) risk assessment(1) Thinking(1) Learning Story(1) Book Review(1) Health(2) Family wall(1) Communications(1) ICBN(1) Sleep(1) ECEC Setting(1) Digital Devices(1) Mount Everest(1) Photographs(1) Whole Group(1) Participation(2) Potential(1) Prexit(1) Budget 2018(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Inspirational(2) Inter-generational(2) Glitter(2) RIE philosphy(1) Environment(2) St. Patrick's Day(1) European Project(1) educating(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Role play(1) AsIAm(1) community(5) CIT(1) National Awards 2019(1) Eritrea(1) Academics(1) Cork(1) awards 2020(1) Childhood(1) Early Years(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Cognitive development(1) ECCE(7) Children's Research Network(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Twitter(1) IGL(1) Time(1) Youtube Series(1) child-centred approach(1) GDPR(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Supernanny(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Wesco(1) Sessional service(1) Touch(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Music(3) Employee(1) Reflective Practice(1) The Jelly King(1) life long learning(1) Mathematicians(1) early childhood educator(1) PIP(1) National Awards 2018(2) Maths(5) First 5 strategy(1) Settling in(4) under 3's(3) Intention(1) Behaviour(3) Fabric(1) NAEYC(1) Síolta QAP(1) trust(3) Masterclass(2) Educator of the Year Award(3) experience(1) Early Years Educators(3) Aldo Fortunati(4) Child mental health(1) Summer(1) Visitors(1) purpose(1) Research Seminar(1) behavioural science(1) outdoor play(6) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Buddies(1) Self-Esteem(1) Playschool(1) New Appointments(1) dogs(1) Awards Night(1) emotions(2) Upcycling(1) Mealtimes(1) Positivity(1) Visual Impairment(1) risky play(2) EECERA 2016(1) Iceland(1) Awards 2018(3) meals(3) Fantasy play(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Exercise(1) Our Little Seed(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) books(4) Xbox(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Inter-generational learning(2) role playing(1) linc(1) Christmas Creativity(2) imotion(1) grandchild(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Creative(1) curiosity(3) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Change(1) research submissions(1) early years learning(1) relationships(17) RTE Investigates(1) Snacks(1) Valentine's Day(3) outdoor space(3) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Relaxation(1) Mayo(1) Thank you(1) Imagination(3) Trigonometry(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Exploring(1) Performing(1) research(6) Care-giving routines(1) budget(1) Culture(2) Consent(1) respect(5) Jenga(1) Mantra(1) annual conference(1) Trade union(1) continual professional development(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Malaguzzi(1) Traffic Lights(1) Traditions(2) documentation(3) play stories(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Belonging(3) UNCRC(1) pablo(1) Winter(1) Shoes(1) San Miniato(4) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Stress(2) planning(1) social science(1) Seas Suas(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Elders(1) Workplace well-being(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Support(1) babies(7) Teamwork(1) Blocks(1) Self-regulation(1) Siolta blog(7) Book Club(2) EM Standing(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Snakes(1) NCCA(3) interacting(2) Sustainable(1) Yoga(1) Recycling(2) dining(1) Irish(1) worries(1) Santa(2) baby room(1) Maths Week(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) keezy(1) Mud kitchens(1) Leprechauns(1) Reggio Emilia(1) Design(1) Funding(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Syria(1) Arts(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Scéalta Blog(94) Scents(1) Laughter(1) food(1) Craft(1) Infectious diseases(1) Treasure(1) reading(5) Emergent Curriculum(1) Inclusion(3) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Budget 2020(1) Interaction(1) Grief(1) Creativity(4) toddlers(3) development(8) Mindfulness(2) Degree(1) Sequins(1) HR(1) Light table(1) Plants(1) Learning Journal(1) CCTV(1) Arlene Forster(1) Fee Play(1) Social Skills(1) bonds(1) gender bias(1) Independence(1) Maternity Leave(1) Study Trip(1) eating(1) Capable(1) Workplace Relations(3) Spiders(1) code of professional responsibility(1) refugees(1) phone apps(1) Anxiety(2) Early Learning and Care(1) Interests(1) Online(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Nutrition(1) Performance Management(1) Facebook(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Learning Stories(9) Staff Motivation(1) Advocacy(1) Norway(2) Exclusion(1) Kerry(1) First 5(1) Pen green(1) Engineering(3) Horizon 2020(1) UN(1) Graduate(1) Confident(1) Infection Control(1) Community involvement(1) learners(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Awards(2) early years research(2) INTO(1) Gratitude(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) dublin(2) Leargas(1) Plastic(1) Wonder(1) Buddy Bench(1) Confidence(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Administrative Burden(1) Afghanistan(1) Mo Scéal(1) Penguins(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Budget 2019(2) Autism(3) listening(1) Maynooth University(1) collaboration(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine