Loved one in hospital

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Image of a loved one in hospital Serious Illness and Mental Health

It is understandable that coping with a serious illness of someone close to us at this time can be very lonely, isolating and more difficult than usual.

It may be that someone close to your family is very unwell and a child or young person may be worried that those close to them may become unwell and die. Or a loved one may be in hospital, and no-one is allowed to visit. This can be really hard for children and young people to make sense of. Here are some things to do to help feel better and to feel closer to a loved one who is very ill.

  • Make time to share feelings and talk about the illness
  • Try to recognise and name how you are feeling
  • Accept that all feelings are valid, normal, and natural
  • Continue doing the things that you love and be creative
  • There may be changes in your appetite, sleeping patterns, mood, and behaviours, and that’s ok
  • Maintain consistency, routine, and boundaries
  • Consider soothing items such as blankets, books, toys, self-care boxes
  • Keep socialising
  • Speak with school to get more support


Helping a Child Cope with Parent's Illness
Dr Robin F. Goodman discusses how to help a child when a parent has a serious illness.


For a guide in supporting children and young people when someone has a terminal illness, please take a look at this booklet by Marie Curie:

Supporting children when someone has a terminal illness (

Need more help?

If you or someone you are supporting is experiencing a mental health crisis and needs urgent support right now, please click here.


Further organisations offering support:

  • Childline (under-19s) trained counsellors provide confidential support on anything – no matter how small or large.


  • PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK (for under-35s) offers confidential support and practical advice.
    • Call: 0800 068 4141
    • Text: 07860 039 967
    • Email:
    • Open: 9am – 10pm weekdays, 2pm – 10pm weekends and bank holidays


  • Samaritans offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever’s getting to you. You don’t have to be suicidal.
    • Call: 116123 (free from any phone)
    • Email: (Sometimes writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you understand them. Email how you are feeling to 'jo' and a volunteer will respond)
    • Open: 24-hours a day, 7-days a week

Useful links

  • ICU Steps supports patients and relatives in intensive care support units and beyond, click here.