Abstract The purpose of this two-year ethnographic study was to explore the experiences of parentally bereaved young people who sought support from the Rocky Centre (a pseudonym), a childhood bereavement service in the United Kingdom. Data were generated from extended periods of participant observation and semi-structured interviews with both staff and service users. In this article we focus specifically on the interviews with 13 young people to elucidate the factors that helped them to live with parental bereavement. Of these participants, four had been recently bereaved and nine had experienced the death of a parent over ten years ago. Seven key themes emerged from the analysis of the interview data: expressing emotion, physical activity, positive adult relationship(s), area of competence, friendships/social support, having fun/humour and transcendence. These themes are discussed in turn, and implications for research and practice are addressed.