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Supporting your child when someone well-known dies

When somebody famous dies, it can be difficult to know how to support children and young people through that loss. We’ve shared some advice below.

When someone dies it is natural to experience a whole range of feelings. Grief is the word we use to describe what can be quite a rollercoaster of emotions in response to loss or death; be that the death of a loved one, or of someone famous such as an actor, musician, sports star, or member of the Royal Family.

The death of someone famous can bring up complicated emotions, especially for children and young people. We often form personal attachments to celebrities, and they may have played an important role in our life at some point – watching their films to cheer us up after a difficult day or reading their books on a memorable trip.

Sometimes the death of someone famous can also remind us of other losses we have faced, such as the loss of a grandparent, relative or friend, which can amplify our grief.

We’ve shared some tips below on how to help your child if they are struggling after the death of someone well-known.

Acknowledge their grief

Your child may feel silly for grieving the loss of someone they’ve never met. Help your child to understand that grief is a natural response but it’s also very individual and will look different to different people.

Reassure them that whatever they’re feeling that’s okay, and that it’s also okay to have times when they don’t feel much at all or they actually feel perfectly ok. You could even share your own experience of grieving someone famous, so your child knows it is okay to grieve someone this way.

Don’t try to take the pain away

When children face the death of someone they care about, it’s natural for them to experience a whole range of feelings. It can be tough to see your child in pain and it’s natural to want to stop that pain. It’s important to acknowledge this emotion, so we shouldn't try to take it away or pretend it’s not there. 

Be honest

We sometimes worry that talking to our children about someone’s death will make their grief worse, but it is often when children are left to fill in the gaps that they become even more confused or scared. Try to answer their questions as honestly as you can, and avoid using phrases that could be confusing, such as ‘they went to sleep'. This will eliminate any idea that it is something that has happened temporarily. Sometimes the circumstances around a celebrity’s death can be challenging, so find age-appropriate ways to discuss these topics if asked.

Talk, and listen

One of the most important things you can do is be there, listen and make space for their feelings. Encourage children to talk about the person who has died. Make yourself available to talk when your child is ready.

It’s not always easy for children to find the words or talk openly about loss and sometimes they really don’t want to talk about it at all, so you could just be available to play or make things together: sand trays, toys, painting/drawing a picture etc. Our Weather: Noticing Feelings project could help your child to express their current emotions and feelings if they want to. Don’t pressurize them.

Turn off the news

When someone famous dies, it is often all over the news and social media which could feel overwhelming. Encourage your child to limit their time online and avoid ‘doom-scrolling’; and try to do the same yourself.

Seek additional support

Most children and young people will process their loss over time with support from those around them, but there may be children who are more vulnerable and for whom loss triggers other issues. If you are concerned, seek professional support and advice.

Other resources you may find useful