Supporting a child through the illness,
or loss, of a relative

When a child is experiencing the illness, or loss, of a relative, they go through and experience various complex emotions. Research shows that when the child is supported through these experiences, they are able to cope with the situation better. Ideally support starts as early as possible, and not when the situation becomes too much for the child, so that they can be better supported in processing and accepting the situation.

When a child is experiencing the illness of a family member it is suggested that the child is made aware of the situation. Children, even young children are able to pick up on signs that something is going on, and this could make the child very anxious. By being told what is going on, the child will feel that the family trusts them to know this information, and in turn the child is able to trust the family, as there are no secrets between them. Being made aware of the situation also makes it easier for the child to accept help and support from others

(Bright Horizons Education Team, 2021).

With regards to loss, the situations tend to vary. Sometimes the relatives will be aware that the patient will soon pass away, and so this allows the family members to prepare the child for this loss. Preparing the child is important as it allows them the chance to come to terms with what is happening. This helps the child make sense of what is going on around them, and in a way this can create a form of security for the child. The child might also wish to say goodbye to their relative or have closure of some sort (Warnick, 2019).

On the other hand, sometimes a child might experience a sudden loss, and so there is no opportunity to prepare the child for this death. Research suggests that it is important, nonetheless, to inform the child of what has happened, and allow them the space to process the situation and express themselves by sharing their thoughts and feelings. Places like Karl Vella Foundation gives the children this safe space. KVF creates a community where children going through similar experiences can come together and support each other through their journey. Professionals are also present to help the children process their thoughts and emotions and come to terms with their situation. Sometimes children might hold back from sharing certain fears with their family members, as to not worry them. However, going to places like KVF allows them the freedom to share whatever is on their mind without the worry of being misunderstood or burdening others.

Children will need a lot of emotional support when going through the illness, or loss, of a loved one. Emotional support enables the child to accept the situation better, and increases their ability to cope with the situation and move forward (American Cancer Society, 2019).

Seeking support as early as possible allows the child to be supported throughout the whole journey. Support through organisations like KVF allows them to cope better with the situation by working through the pain and rebuilding themselves around the loss or serious illness of their relative.

Blog by Martina Chircop


American Cancer Society. (2019). Seeking help and support for grief and loss.


Bright Horizons Education Team. (2021). Talking with children about the serious illness of a

family member.


Warnick, A. (2019). When to tell the children: Preparing children for the death of someone

close to them.



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