End of life

Talking to children and young people

It can be difficult to know how to talk about the end of life with children or grandchildren. People tell us that they worry about upsetting or frightening them.

What can you do?

We know that young people and children may have questions about what is happening and want to express their thoughts and feelings too.

They may also have questions about the future. Who will look after them? What will happen at the funeral and can they be involved? Take time to reassure them and offer any emotional support they need.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your doctor, nurse or social worker.

There are a variety of books and information out there for children experiencing loss before and after a loved one dies.

You might also have access to local childhood bereavement services.

My daughter and her family visited us every Sunday. Maggie was 13 and Tom was 9 when Granddad died.

We had told them that Granddad was very ill and that he might not be with us much longer. We also explained he might suddenly have a problem.

They were involved in his care - Maggie was in charge of hugs for Granddad and Tom turned the oxygen concentrator up and down as asked. They both reminded him very loudly to take his pills at mealtimes.

They visited on the last morning of Granddad’s life. They both coped well and came to the funeral. Tom did say a year later that he didn’t really believe Granddad was dead until the funeral.  There don’t seem to be any long-lasting effects, perhaps because we were so open about what was happening. There are photos of Granddad around the house and we often discuss whether he would have liked something and how proud he was of his grandchildren.

- Gill, whose husband died over a year ago.

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Last medically reviewed: March 2015. Due for review: March 2018

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.