Grief and Loss

What is it? 

Grief is a natural response to a significant loss. The most extreme of such losses is experienced through the death of a loved one. However, children can also experience significant grief through the loss of a pet or the loss of normalcy, routines, relationships, land, culture, kinship ties, and community connections.  

Grief in early childhood has a significant impact on children. It is a physical, emotional and psychological experience.

What are signs of grief in young children?

Grief looks different for everyone. Signs of grief in young children include:

  • crying 
  • sadness
  • inability to relax
  • nightmares
  • loss of appetite
  • bedwetting
  • body aches 
  • sleep disturbances
  • restlessness 
  • clinging behaviours
  • difficulty concentrating
  • anxiety 
  • disruptive behaviours

What can be done? 

Help the children process grief by encouraging them to share their feelings. Let them know that it’s okay to cry and express their feelings. Listen and let them know that you will support them to work through their feelings. 

Young children have limited experience in dealing with grief and loss. Allow them to express their grief in their own way and at their own pace. 

Encourage children to ask questions and give honest but age-appropriate answers that they can understand. 

Model healthy coping strategies. Children pick up on the behaviour of adults more than you think. You can find healthy distractions such as playing a game or spending time doing an activity they really enjoy. 

Seek help and support. Let them know that they can talk to someone they trust or a professional to help them process grief.

Where can I access support?

Talk to the child’s family doctor or pediatrician to help identify if the child’s behaviour is normal for their developmental stage. 

Talk to the child’s guardianship worker to explore what options are available for assessment so their diagnosis and treatment plan can be included in their Care Plan. The guardianship worker will help make appropriate referrals for specialized supports and services.

Get an assessment through your local Child and Youth Mental Health team. Your local CYMH office offers a range of free and voluntary mental health services and supports for children from 0-18 years of age and their families. These services include assessments, therapy and treatment, education and referrals to specialized programs and resources. There are 100 intake clinics for children, youth and their families at convenient locations throughout BC. 

You can also contact a private psychologist or counsellor through the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors or the BC Psychological Association. You can use website filters to search for a counsellor in your community that specializes in certain mental health challenges.



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Foster parents are encouraged to call this number in the event of an EMERGENCY or CRISIS occurring after regular office hours:



If you think a child or youth under 19 years of age is being abused or neglected, you have the legal duty to report your concern to a child welfare worker. Phone 1 800 663-9122 at any time of the day or night. Visit the Government of BC website for more info.


BCFPA Provincial Office
Suite 208 - 20641 Logan Avenue
Langley, BC V3A 7R3


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Our work takes place on the traditional and unceded Coast Salish territories of the Kwantlen, Katzie, Matsqui and Semiahmoo First Nations. BCFPA is committed to reconciliation with all Indigenous communities, and creating a space where we listen, learn and grow together.

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