Understanding Loss

Children and young people who are adopted have experienced a number of losses. Any further loss or bereavement or even changes in their lives in young people’s lives can trigger these previous losses for them. We hope you will find the information and materials on this page helpful when thinking about issues of loss and how it impacts on adopted children and young people.

The grief of adopted children

Adopted children inevitably go through a grieving process for the birth family they have been parted from, even where the care from this family may have been poor or abusive. This process will effect children differently at various ages and stages of their development and they may need you as parents to recognise what they are feeling and to support them.

A pictorial developmental guide [PDF] to children's understanding of adoption is based on works by David Brodzinsky.

This article by Brodzinsky refers to what he calls 'adaptive grieving'. 

Reading resources available



This site is developed especially for teenagers who have a parent with cancer. In riprap, you can learn more about cancer and its treatment and through real stories you can read the experiences of other young people and share your own story.​

Useful links

Winston's Wish Helpline offers support, information and guidance to all those caring for a child or young person who has been bereaved.

The website provides a range of information and access to resources. Publications cover issues such as: how to understand cancer; how to explain serious illness or suicide to a child.

A range of Memory Boxes and Activity Sheets have been designed to help families store and retain memories.

Child Bereavement UK supports families, has a helpline and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement.

Bereavement Book List [Word] Using stories and activities can be a really good way to explore issues with a child who has been bereaved. We have created a list of books, which we have found helpful when working with bereaved children, young people and their families. 

What's Your Grief also have a list of children's books about death which may be helpful in supporting bereaved young people.

Cruse Bereavement Care offers support, advice and information to children, young people and adults when someone dies. They also offer face-to-face support from trained volunteers, telephone, email and website support and have a Freephone national helpline and local services, and a website specifically for children and young people.

Useful Materials

Books for children

There are many books available to help you with children who have experienced loss including:

  • The day the sea went out and never came back by Margot Sunderland and Nicky Armstrong

A story for children who have lost someone they love. Eric is a sand dragon who loves the sea very much. Each day, he watches it going out and coming back. But one day, the sea goes out and does not come back.

Specialist Resources

Talking to Children About Suicide [PDF]

When someone one dies by suicide there will be lots of confusing and different feelings that are hard to find the words for. Children need reassurance that they are loved and that nothing they did caused the death.

Red Chocolate Elephants: For Children Bereaved by Suicide – Book & DVD [opens in new window]