Helping children in your family

Children and teenagers have a different way of expressing their grief. Do not underestimate the impact of a bereavement, even if a child is very young or does not seem sad. They may express their grief through play, in outbursts of anger, or by becoming clingy or very withdrawn. Some children will complain more of stomach upsets or have trouble sleeping.

Children often worry that something they said or did caused the death, so let them know that the death is no-one’s fault and that there is nothing anyone could have done to prevent it. After the death of a parent, children need to be reassured that they will be looked after – explain to them who will be involved in their care.

Like adults, children and young people need:

  • space to grieve – you do not have to fix their sorrow
  • acknowledgement of their loss, ongoing support, and the opportunity to understand and express their feelings
  • to be told the truth and to be included
  • for the adults around them to show them that it’s okay to cry and express their sadness, and that it’s also fine to be angry as long as they don’t hurt themselves or others
  • help to put words to their feelings of loss
  • to keep up school, activities and regular routines
  • encouragement to cherish their memories, talk about the person, and know that they were and are loved.

The ways children understand death and experience grief changes with their age and development. They might seem to be deeply distressed one moment and playing happily the next. This does not mean that their grief is superficial – they often work through their feelings in bits and pieces, facing them in bearable doses.

Allow children to talk about their emotions in a safe environment without judgement and give them tools that suit their way of grieving, such as drawing or kicking a ball to help manage emotions.

It’s especially hard to be there for your children when you are grieving. Sometimes people feel they just don’t have any emotional energy left for their children. It is not uncommon for children and teenagers to start to express their grief more strongly just as the adults supporting them feel like they are starting to cope with their own grief. At this time, it is important to allow others to help. Reach out to extended family, friends and school to make sure your children are well supported.

Find out more about children and grief

Cancer Council has more information about helping grieving children. Talking when cancer won’t go away explains how children of different ages understand cancer, illness and death, and answers some of the common questions kids ask.

We also have information for school staff when a student, a student’s family member or a staff member has died from cancer.

Call 13 11 20 if you would like free booklets about these topics sent to you.

CanTeen, Redkite and Good Grief offer support tailored for young people.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on understanding grief

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit:


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit:

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit:

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in April 2017
View who reviewed this content
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Support services

Caring for someone with cancer
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand

Cancer information

Talking to kids about cancer
How to explain a cancer diagnosis and treatment to children of all ages, as well as how to talk to them if the cancer won’t go away

End of life 
This information may help you better cope with end of life, or support someone who may be dying with cancer