My Child’s Behaviour Has Changed After a Death – What Do I Do?

My Child’s Behaviour Has Changed After a Death – What Do I Do?

Kenny Scott | Sep 29, 2016 | Child bereavement

Are you worried that your child’s behaviour has changed after a recent death?

If a close friend or family member has died, it’s common for children to become withdrawn, clingy, emotional, attention seeking or very quiet – or perhaps just not showing much of a reaction at all.

Sometimes the change in behaviour can be quite dramatic – usually in the case of a sudden death – and you may find this very disconcerting, whilst feeling worried about your child’s well-being.

Below, I’ve used my own experience as a counsellor helping children through the various stages of bereavement, to provide some advice and guidance on what to do in this situation.

What should I look out for in my child’s behaviour?

It’d be unrealistic to expect your child to be unaffected after the death of a close friend or family member, but there are some warning signs you should look out for if you’re feeling worried about your child’s behaviour. These include the child wanting to be on their own all the time, and a general loss of appetite.

Your child may talk about wanting to be with the loved one, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they want to die, too; it’s more a longing to be with the person they’ve lost, and spend time with them again – although it can be said in anger, too.

If your child starts talking about ways in which they would end their life, it’s important to take this seriously and to get professional help immediately – don’t delay.

What should I do if my child is acting differently?

Try giving your child a choice of people they can talk to; it may be a family friend, or another family member, as sometimes children prefer a more informal chat. You can also seek advice as a parent by calling one of the bereavement charities or your local GP/family doctor.

It may be that your child is having difficulty accepting what has happened and is blaming themselves. It could be they don’t want to speak to people close to them due to this fear, so it’s good for them to get reassurance that it wasn’t their fault, along with help moving through the grieving process.

I once worked with a child whose younger sibling had died tragically when in their company; he become very withdrawn, and I did a lot of work with him as he felt it was his fault. It took a long time to get past that part in the process, but he started to move along the stages of grief with my help.

TIP: My blog ‘How Will My Child Feel After Losing a Family Member?’ contains some great resources for helping your child through their bereavement.


I appreciate this is a very difficult time, so remember there are professionals willing to help you and your family. If you’re worried about your child’s behaviour, you should give them plenty of opportunities to talk to someone they trust – or a professional bereavement counsellor if necessary.

If you’re looking for ideas for what to do with your loved one’s ashes, you’re welcome to read our ebook: ‘6 Things You Can Do With Your Loved One’s Ashes’.