When someone dies whilst you are on holiday

What happens when someone significant dies when a child or family is on holiday?

In addition to our general guidelines which you can find here – explaining to young children that someone has died – there are some additional things to think about when someone dies whilst you or your child/ren are away from home.

If you are deciding whether to tell your child about the death whilst you are away on holiday you will need to think about whether your child is likely to hear about the death on social media or from another source before you have had the chance to tell them yourself. You may need more time to find out more about what happened before being able to tell your child.

It can be difficult to tell children about a death, particularly if you are on holiday. However, if children are not given information in a timely way they can feel excluded and can lose trust in the adults around them.

If you decide to tell them immediately, try to find a place where your child will feel comfortable and safe and where you will not be interrupted.

Children need to be given honest and accurate information using age appropriate but correct vocabulary; using the word dead rather than euphemisms such as “gone to sleep” or “lost” can cause confusion.

Do not feel pressured into giving all the information at once – you can give further information over time as your child asks for it. Be guided by your child as to how much to say. The important thing is for your child to have a clear understanding of what has happened that can be added to later on.

If you don’t have much information about what happened, tell your child that you will let them know more when you know yourself.

If your child is not with you

If your child is not with a parent or main carer when the death occurs you will need to consider whether someone else should tell your child or whether to wait until you are reunited. You will need to think about whether there is someone who would be able to tell them in a caring and sensitive way and who can also provide the support that your child may need.

If your child is travelling back to you unaccompanied there may be no-one in a position to provide them with the necessary support during the journey.

If you decide not to tell your child straight away, tell them why you decided to do this when you do tell them.

Further guidance and information can be found on the page containing our information sheets here.

To speak to someone about any aspect of talking to your child about a death, ring our Support and Information telephone line on 0800 02 888 40, anytime between 9:00-5:00, Monday to Friday.