Frequently Asked Questions

with regards to loss, illness & other related issues


Loss is very complex, and personal. When we lose someone, we go through a period of grieving and generally go through phases of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Below are some tips that might help you support your child/ren:

  • Acknowledge and accept your child/ren’s feelings.
  • Help your children find a safe place to express their thoughts and emotions. This could be with a therapist, or a support group.
  • Replace the negative feelings with positive ones: Help your children write a list of what is good in their lives.
  • Help them engage in meaningful and creative activities.
  • Encourage them to learn to discover new things in life and never lose hope.
  • Be patient with the process.

It is also advisable to seek the help of a professional both for the child/ren and adults, so that all family members will be supported throughout their processing of grief.

Grief varies from one person to the other. Factors which might influence the duration of one’s grief include the type of loss, the person’s cultural beliefs, the relationship to the deceased, and any other life experiences one might be going through.

However, if you feel that the grief you or your loved one is experiencing is too distressing and is impairing daily functioning, or else you have been having low moods for a long time, then it is advisable to seek psychological support, to be guided through the process by a professional.

Grief in children can look very different from grief in adults. Children may react to loss in various ways. It is okay if your child does not feel the need to cry, as they might just need the space and time to grieve in their own way. Communicating with your child to see how they are feeling, and what thoughts and emotions they are going through, might help understand their reaction better. A way to support children is by meeting them where they are in their grieving process, and seeking professional support if the need arises.

The way in which one should break the news about an accident to children depends a lot on the child’s age. Below are a few tips that can guide you;

  • Find a quiet place, where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Prepare what you are going to say beforehand – it is best to provide your child with small and relevant chunks of information about the incident.
  • See what the child understands by the word ‘life support’, and guide them to understand its full meaning if they do not know what it means.
  • Be prepared for a mix of emotions and reactions such as shock, anger, sadness and even silence.
  • Allow your child the space to ask questions and express themselves.

Having an increased curiosity about death is a reaction which some children might have following the loss of a loved one. There are many reasons as to why they might be asking questions about death. One reason could be that the child is trying to understand what has happened and where their loved one has gone.

If their concern about death does not subside with time, or gets worse and disrupts their daily functioning, then you might wish to consider reaching out for psychological support, so that a professional may help your child through their grieving process.

Children may react to death in various ways. Being afraid of the dark tends to be a reaction which happens to some children (especially young children) after they have lost someone, with some children even wanting to sleep in the same bed as their parent for a while. Below are a few tips to help you support your child during this period;

  • Talk to your child and see what it is about the dark that scares them.
  • Reassure your child that there is nothing to be afraid of.
  • Explore with your child what would make them feel safer.
  • Provide your child with a safe space to talk about their feelings.
  • Be patient with the process.


Most of the time children are already aware that something is going on. They have probably overheard conversations on the phone or in person with your partner, became aware of frequent visits to the hospital or even noticed you pensive and concerned. While it’s natural for parents to hold back from breaking the news, children might feel more anxious and create their own conclusions which might not always be right. Talking to your children about what’s going on might create a more healthier and supportive environment in the family.

When informing your children about your diagnosis, the way you tell them could affect how they react and cope with the situation.

Below are some tips that can guide you through the process;
  • Prepare what you want to say.
  • Choose a time and a place, when your children are mostly calm and where you won’t be interrupted (ideally not before bed time)
  • Whether you tell your children together or separately depends on different factors such as age and emotional intelligence.
  • Be honest and natural. It is okay to be emotional.
  • Allow your children to ask questions and express their worries.
  • Use words that your children can understand.
  • Try not to give too much information in one go.
  • Provide reassurance throughout the conversation.

A good way of supporting your child after informing them of your diagnosis is by providing them with reassurance.

Children tend to need reassurance that:

  • The cause of the illness is not their fault.
  • Serious illnesses like cancer are not contagious.
  • Most of the time, treatment works.
  • Let them know who knows about the situation and who will be taking care of them when you feel unwell.

Explaining what is going on, really depends on the age of the children. Use words that they can understand, such as ‘I’m taking medicine that fights bad cells’’ or “that makes daddy’s sickness go away.” Also you might consider explaining to your children the impact the treatment might have on your health, moods, family’s usual routines and appearances such as hair loss.

You might also wish to mention that you may react to treatment in different ways at different times. Try using words such as ‘‘feeling sleepy’’, ‘‘needing to rest’’, ‘‘feeling nauseous’’, ‘‘wearing a scarf’’, ‘‘feeling weak’’. You might wish to reassure your children that you will keep them updated on how you are doing. Also provide them with space to ask questions and express their worries and feelings.

Giving details about treatment may prepare your child for what is to come. Knowing details about treatment and the side-effects, tends to help them cope better with the situation. Allow them to ask questions about the treatment.

What you say to your son, and how you tell him depends on his age and his stage of development. Here are a few general tips to guide you;

  • Consider having a caring professional who might help you explain things to your child.It’s best to talk to your son when he is calm and somewhere where you won’t be interrupted. Ideally not before bed time.
  • Allow him to let you know what he thinks is happening. Is he worried that his father might die? What does he think ‘death’ means?
  • Talk about the treatment and reassure him that a team of specialized people are taking care of his father 24/7 to relieve him from pain whilst improving his quality of life.

If treatment is not working, children should be informed that their father is not responding to treatment and is expected to live for a certain amount of time. Although this is painful for the adult, preparing and informing your children is important.

  • Below are a few tips to help you;
  • Be prepared for your child to react in various ways – such as anger.
  • Reassure your children that they will still be taken care of.
  • Allow your children to express their emotions and to ask as many questions as they like.

When explaining illness to a 5 year-old, you may consider to;

  • Show her that you would like her to know about her brother’s illness.
  • Find out what your child already knows or noticed.
  • Use words that she can understand without going into unnecessary details.
  • Allow her to ask questions and to express her emotions.
  • Re-assure her that the cause of her sibling’s illness is not her fault.
  • Tell her that the family might experience changes in routine, such as going to treatment abroad or hospital visits.
  • Re-assure her that although her brother would need a lot of attention, you would still love her and be there for her just the same.

It is advisable to inform your children’s school and other organisations your children are involved in, as they can support you and your children better during this journey.

Being informed is helpful as they can be more aware of any behavioral changes your children might go through. If they feel that it is something that needs to be attended to, then they can refer your children for further support.

Mental illness might be harder to explain to children than physical illnesses as visible symptoms are not always present. For younger children, it is best to try to use simple words such as ‘‘grandma feels sad sometimes’’ and try to explain what is going on through any visible symptoms she might be experiencing such as being tired more often, or not wanting to eat. This will help them understand better what is going on, and why she might need further support.

Dementia can be a difficult subject to talk about, especially when you are trying to explain it to a child. You can explain that dementia is an illness which causes their grandparent to experience loss of memory and an inability to do their daily activities. Reassure them that they can still hug them and spend time with them.


KVF offers one to one therapy, group therapy and psycho-educational programmes online and at the Centre. For more information please go to our services page.  KVF also offers educational support by qualified teachers, either in small groups or individually, to those children who are struggling at school due to the illness or loss of a loved one.

The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on KVF, like it did on many other organisations. However, KVF managed to adapt and shifted some of its main services including group sessions and one-to-one therapy online. Most of its group sessions are being done in person at KVF Centre.

Apart from group programmes, KVF offers:

  • Play Therapy (including sand therapy)
  • Drama Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Counselling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Mind body therapy

The form of therapy depends on a number of factors such as age, child’s needs and ways of engaging.

Although therapy sessions are free of charge for the clients, KVF pays professionals €40 per session.

The referral form can either be filled by a professional such as a social worker, counsellor, Head of School or by the legal guardian by clicking on the this link

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