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:

Capable(1) Mindfulness(2) Budget 2020(1) Academics(1) Rituals(1) PIP(1) Autism(3) San Minia(1) Recycling(2) EECERA 2016(1) Ceremony(1) Recycle(1) Breathing(2) science(3) DES Inspection(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) E.coli(1) Mantra(1) scéalta(29) Special Needs Assistants(1) Learning journals(1) memories(1) Playschool(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Role play(1) Wendy Lee(3) Social Skills(1) Halloween(2) Relaxation(1) Support(1) STEM(2) Sleep(1) Behaviour(3) Budget 2018(1) Creative(1) conversations(1) Engineers Week(2) development(8) Visual Impairment(1) Performing(1) Independence(1) Montessori(3) Masterclass(2) Learning Story(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Community involvement(1) Playdough(1) CPD(1) budget(1) Empathy(1) Trick or treat(1) MECPI(1) Maternity Leave(1) respect(5) Celebrations(4) Kids Own(1) animals(2) Socioemotional development(1) experience(1) Maths(4) Oireachtas(1) Qualifications(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Scents(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Wilenski(1) First 5(1) Fabric(1) Event Guide(1) TOY Programme(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) educating(1) food(1) NAEYC(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Pobal(1) Tuscan Approach(2) SPICE Framework(1) environments(1) Shapes(1) transitions(10) Infectious diseases(1) Margy Whalley(1) Sequins(1) ReCreate(2) Reflective Practice(1) University(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Bereavement(2) Workplace well-being(1) Buddies(1) The Jelly King(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Aistear(110) Blocks(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) play(32) Identity and Belonging(4) Gardening(1) Reggio Emilia(1) Trade union(1) listening(1) Death(2) child-centred approach(1) mushrooms(1) Children's Research Network(1) Settling in(4) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Trigonometry(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Games(1) Environment(2) planning(1) Inter-generational(2) Performance Management(1) Plastic(1) Hand Hygiene(1) Trade Unions(1) Maynooth(1) outdoor space(3) Meet the Members(1) reading(5) Childhood(1) Imagination(3) Painting(1) Workplace Relations(3) Exit interview(1) Decisions(1) Change(1) Challenges(1) Favouritism(1) Awards 2018(3) life long learning(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Biting(1) Limerick(1) Mount Everest(1) College(1) Diversity(1) preschool(2) Thanks(1) outdoor play(6) Exercise(1) Maria Montessori(1) Engineering(2) Whole Group(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) books(4) Confidence(1) Interaction(1) baby room(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Meal time(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Loss(1) The Lullaby Book(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) story time(1) ECEC(1) Sociodramatic play(1) relationships(17) Time Out(1) Online(1) Siolta blog(2) Thinking(1) Supernanny(1) Childcare(2) Horizon 2020(1) Albert Einstein(1) Smiles(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Advocacy(1) Italy(1) Self-Esteem(1) Sweets(1) National Holiday(1) supportive environments(2) blog(28) Leaders in Practice(1) christmas(8) Professionalisation(4) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) GDPR(1) educarer(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) DCYA(4) Health(2) risk assessment(1) Quality(4) stories(2) ears(1) eating(1) RTE Investigates(1) IGL(1) United Nations(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Winter(1) education(2) NCCA(3) curriculum(5) Annual Conference 2017(2) First 5 strategy(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Nonverbal(1) Grief(1) National Awards 2018(2) Line-ups(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Sustainable(1) Body Language(1) Primary School(2) Book Club(2) Window(1) Irish(1) Exploring(1) Laughter(1) Children and families(1) Snakes(1) Kilkenny(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) maternity health(1) feisty(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Policy(2) Photographs(1) Little Buddies(1) Iceland(1) Obesity(1) Anxiety(2) bonds(1) curiosity(3) Lego(2) Consent(1) Home Corner(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Human Resources(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) purpose(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Twitter(1) outdoors(3) trust(3) Titles(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Well-Being(9) Treasure(1) Rich Documentation(1) Drawing(2) Mo Scéal(1) Síolta(105) Rising to the Challenge(2) Vertical grouping(1) Research Seminar(1) early childhood educator(1) documentation(3) play stories(1) UD(1) Identity(5) Patterns(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) AIM(2) ERASMUS+(3) Investment(2) Mental Health(3) Scéalta Book Review(1) dublin(2) San Miniato(4) Thank you(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) risk(2) Communications(1) Syria(1) value(1) Party(1) Belonging(3) Love(2) Maths Week Ireland(1) Participation(2) Children's Voice(1) Arts(1) Afghanistan(1) emotions(2) CIT(1) Dance(1) Feeding(1) Training(2) Administrative Burden(1) Exclusion(1) Through the looking glass(1) Our Little Seed(1) AsIAm(1) Technology(2) Workforce(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Síolta QAP(1) Wonder(1) New Appointments(1) Arlene Forster(1) under 3's(3) Touch(1) Story(1) Appreciation(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) friendships(1) Wrapping paper(1) European Project(1) Sculptures(1) School Age Childcare(1) Xbox(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Facebook(1) refugees(1) Design(1) linc(1) Traditions(2) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Buddy Bench(1) Teamwork(1) Yoga(1) Inspections(1) INTO(1) Self Help Skills(1) Map(1) Santa(2) social media(1) Builders(1) toddlers(3) Giraffe(2) Positivity(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) emotional environment(1) Decision Making(1) Brain(1) EM Standing(1) meals(3) babies(7) Time(1) Confident(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Research Conference 2019(1) dining experiences(1) Glitter(2) UNCRC(1) Celebrate(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Fantasy play(1) Norway(2) Penguins(1) Mealtimes(1) Care-giving routines(1) Graduate(1) Pen green(1) Family wall(1) science week(2) Orla Kenny(1) ECCE(6) Budget 2019(2) Maths Week(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Degree(1) Magic(1) Summer(1) Names(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Cork(1) Mixed age groups(2) Book Review(1) Cognitive development(1) Competent(1) Arithmetic(1) Infection Control(1) Reggio(1) interacting(2) Family(1) Routines(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Interests(1) parents(5) Weather(1) Child mental health(1) Prexit(1) Treasure Chest(1) Light table(1) UN(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Adoption(1) Engagement(1) Valentine's Day(3) Jenga(1) Seas Suas(1) learning(18) pets(1) Upcycling(1) Eritrea(1) Staff Motivation(1) Potential(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) early years research(1) overhear(1) Music(3) Wesco(1) MA(1) Plants(1) Storytelling(3) Inclusion(3) Snacks(1) Traffic Lights(1) worries(1) Affordability(1) Learning Story Awards(1) Flowers(1) Pobal sector profile(1) communication(4) Leargas(1) Awards 2019(1) National Awards 2019(1) Communicating(1) grandchild(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Academic Skills(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) CCTV(1) Mayo(1) Easter(1) Learning Journal(1) journey(1) Queues(1) Shoes(1) Culture(2) Employee(1) Stress(2) Sustainability(3) Laugh(1) Inspirational(2) Learning Stories(9) role playing(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) Care routines(1) Awards(2) Malaguzzi(1) collaboration(1) Snack Time(1) listen(1) Gratitude(1) dogs(1) TRAP(1) Magda Gerber(1) Creativity(4) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Impact(1) Self-regulation(1) Building Resilience(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Art(6) ICBN(1) Scéalta Blog(90) Sport(1) HR(1) Leadership(1) Fee Play(1) Kerry(1) research(6) dining(1) Mathematicians(1) Interactions(2) Children's Rights(3) RIE philosphy(1) Certificate(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Study Trip(1) Elders(1) Graduation(1) Craft(1) Educators(1) Nutrition(1) Universal Design(2) Mud kitchens(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Visitors(1) Japan(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) Magnavacchi(1) Early Years(1) Running(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Funding(1) Leprechauns(1) Early Years Educators(2) Intention(1) Frustrations(1) risky play(2) Mark Twain(1) Spiders(1) Vietnam(1) routine(2) community(5) Maynooth University(1) Iraq(1) Children(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine