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Queen funeral: How to explain grief and bereavement to children

While the nation mourns the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, there are arguably those that will feel it more viscerally than others.

For children, the feelings of grief might be particularly difficult to process.

With this in mind, we’ve spoken to the charity Cruse Bereavement Care about how to talk to children about grief in order to help them move forward and heal.

“Children will be very much affected by what’s going on around them, whether that’s grief for the Queen or because of other illnesses or bereavements in the family,” it said.

“Their understanding will change depending on age, but the following tips may help if you need to talk to a child about someone dying, whether or not it’s someone they know.”

5 ways to help children deal with grief

1. Be upfront with them about what has happened

“It’s important to use clear language,” says the spokesperson. “Let them talk and ask questions. 

“Ask what they know – they may be getting information which is incorrect or distorted from friends or social media.”

With a younger child, there might be other things to consider. “You may need to give information in small chunks,” they added.

“Talking about the situation and about the possibility of death and dying is an ongoing conversation.”

2. Reassure them that it’s going to be OK

It might be the case that, following the death of the Queen or a family member, a child starts to become preoccupied by the idea of others dying.

“If they are worried about others around them dying, let them know them they are loved and supported,” says the spokesperson.

“Don’t give false promises, but let them know that whatever happens someone will be there to look after them.”

3. Let them know that you are also sad

When we are grieving it can be tempting to want to put on a brave face in front of children. But Cruse says it’s important to let them see you also feeling sad, as this could take away some of the shame they feel with their own sadness.

“Children will pick up on your feelings, so it’s better to be honest about how you are feeling where it’s appropriate,” the spokesperson adds.

4. Let them join in with memorials and funerals

Some people may discourage children from coming to funerals and memorial services. But it can be an important step in their grieving process.

“Whether it’s watching the Queen’s funeral, or going to the funeral of their own relative, our advice is to be led by the child or young person,” they say.

“Funerals and memorials can be a way for children to help process their feelings and understand the finality of what’s happened. They can also be a time for sharing memories and children can be part of that, if they want to.”

5. Encourage them to share memories

When we lose someone, one of the most important things to do is keep their memory alive.

Cruse suggests encouraging children to talk about the person they’ve lost. “Ask them about their favourite memories, if they want to share them.”

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