Begin by taking care of yourself. If you do not have someone to be there for you, you may have difficulty being there for a child who needs you.
Include children in what is happening. Give them information in language that they can understand. Encourage them to be a part of things by visiting at the hospital, attending a wake, taking part in a funeral or memorial service.
Help children understand what has happened. Be willing to tell them the story again and again and to answer all of their questions. If you are unable to do this because of your own pain, be sure that another caring adult is available for this purpose. Avoid euphemisms such as: "She's sleeping", "He went on a long trip", God took him because he was so good", "We lost your baby brother". Don't be afraid to use the words "dead, dying, cancer, suicide, cremation," etc. and to be sure children understand what these words mean. The truth is never as bad as the fantasies that children develop when they don't have enough information.
Allow children to feel all of their feelings in a safe and protected environment. Let them see that you're sad, too, and it's okay to cry. Name the feeling when you see children acting out in an angry way. Help them find ways to express their anger that won't hurt somebody else or themselves. Recognize that they are probably feeling guilty and assure them that it was no one's fault. Help them to feel safe and to know that they will feel better again and that someone will always be there to care for them.
Recognize that while children certainly do grieve, their grief does not always look like an adult's grief. Just because they run outside to play after being told that someone they love has died doesn't mean they didn't understand or that they should be left out of what's happening. Children need to play; it's their way of dealing with many of their feelings. When children have physical symptoms or difficulty separating from you, remember that this too may well be connected to their feelings of grief.
Support the child who regresses after a loss. This may be demonstrated by childish behavior that was given up long ago or by difficulties in school or with other children. Realize that this is a child's way of showing you he is in pain and needs your loving support.
Remember that grief isn't over within a day or a week or a month. Children, like adults, are likely to grieve for a long time. They may even feel worse rather than better as time goes by and they begin to fully comprehend that a loved one is not coming back. Be patient with their grieving and remember that it is a process.
Tommy's Kids (by St. Thomas Hospice)Support group and camp.
Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance (PLIDA.org)Parents & health professionals helping bereaved families.