When a child experiences the death of a parent or of a brother or sister
Leading researchers agree that the death of a parent or of a brother or sister is one of the hardest losses a child has to face.
Young people’s responses to the death of a parent, brother or sister will vary according to:
- their age
- the cause and nature of the death (for example, whether sudden or expected, whether by suicide or violence)
- the family circumstances (for example, whether parents lived together, whether major life changes will now be necessary)
- any previous experience of death or trauma within the family
- their own strengths and the support and care they receive.
The death of a parent, brother or sister may cause a child or young person to feel some or all of the following:
- deep sadness, that may or may not be expressed in conventional ways such as crying
- a hollow, achy pain inside that is hard to put into words and may be described as hunger, boredom, fear or often feeling sick.
- loneliness and a sense of having been abandoned
- anxiety about the safety and well-being of the rest of the family, especially the surviving parent and including themselves
- that they have to become more responsible – ‘man of the house now’
- that there’s no point in anything any more, including school work
- anger and even rage at what has happened
- blame or guilt for things said or unsaid, done or undone
- relief – if the family situation had become difficult, for example physical symptoms (ones that may echo their dead parent’s symptoms).
- Back to top