Parents have a great deal to manage when their own parent or carer dies. There is the grief associated with their own loss but also the reactions and responses of their children to the death of a grandparent.

The death of a grandparent is often a child or young person’s first encounter with the loss of someone important as the result of a death. Dependant on their life experiences so far, the realisation that we die may come with varying degrees of surprise, even shock. They probably have had an awareness at some level, but until directly affected may not be prepared for the reality. Some children will work out that if a grandparent has died, other people may die, resulting in unusually clingy or anxious behaviour.

Others may take it all very much in their stride. Children look to the adults around them for cues on how to react and respond, so this first encounter with loss and grief is an important life lesson. It will influence and shape how these children respond in the future; whether they feel it is OK to talk about death and dying and to show their emotions, or perceive it as something better ignored and swept under the carpet.

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When a grandparent dies: the impact on children and young people

Books to buy

Remembering

Remembering

Author: Dianne Leutner

It’s part book, part scrapbook and was created to help keep a child’s memories alive after the loss of someone special and to give children a place to return to whenever they wish.

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My Grandma Died: A Child’s Story about Grief and Loss

My Grandma Died: A Child’s Story about Grief and Loss

Author: Lory Britain

A young child talks about the emotions felt after Grandma’s death. Includes a list entitled “Things I can do when someone I love dies.

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Granpa

Granpa

Author: John Burningham

Adorable Granpa gamely nurses his granddaughter’s dolls, eats her pretend strawberry-flavoured ice cream, takes her toboganning in the snow, and falls in step with her imaginary plans to captain a ship to Africa like all good grandfathers should. Winner of the Kate Maschler Award, this poignant tale of friendship and loss is one children will long remember.

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Grandad’s Ashes

Grandad’s Ashes

Author: Walter Smith

This beautifully illustrated picture book for children aged four to eight tells the story of four children who embark on an adventure to find their Grandad’s favourite place, they are faced with plenty of challenges on the way. Told with gentle humour, this is a charming story for children and an ideal resource for parents or counsellors to read with a child as a way of broaching issues surrounding loss or bereavement.

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