Explaining Death To a Child
Death is inevitable and often the passing of a loved one will affect every individual differently. As you’ve grown into adulthood, you’ve probably learned to make peace through understanding the circle of life which entails death. The passing of a loved one can be an extremely hard concept to grasp for a child, and even harder for the person who’s explaining it to them.
If you’ve recently experienced a death in your family and are struggling to find the right words to help your child understand what has happened, you can follow these simple steps to help them.
Use Simple Language
Remember, expression of your feelings is never a bad thing! When you are ready to explain to your child what has happened, you don’t have to say it perfectly, rather you should just try your best to remain calm and caring. Use language that is clear and directly to the point like, “I have some sad news to share with you. Grandpa died today.” You shouldn’t bombard your child with questions or demands, rather give them a moment to reflect on what you have just told them.
Listen to Comfort
Individuality throughout life is important. Your child may cry, ask questions, or seem to not react at all. Stay near to hug or comfort and answer your child’s questions honestly. It’s okay for your child to witness your sadness or tears; they will one day be young adults who will need to demonstrate proper expression of their emotions and be better off because they learned from you.
Say What You are Feeling
It’s okay to ask your child how they are feeling or what they are thinking. This is the perfect opportunity for you to better be able to understand yourself by labeling your own emotions as well. This will encourage your child to share theirs. You can say things like, “I know you are feeling sad. I am feeling very sad too. We both loved Grandpa so much, he loved us too.”
Explain Events That Will Happen
If the death of a loved one is going to directly affect your child’s routine, explaining to them what will happen will let them feel prepared. For example, you can say “Aunt Jordy is going to pick you up from school like Grandma used to,” or “I need to stay with Grandpa for a few days. I will talk to you and dad every day, and be back on Sunday.” Let them participate in rituals like viewings, funerals, and memorial services.
By doing these things for your child, you allow them to wholeheartedly participate in the grieving process. You should aim to provide your child comfort and reassurance in how they are feeling, as well as help them remember the person who has passed. Sharing happy memories helps heal the grief they are experiencing! It will take time to heal but fortunately, they will feel empowered as they are surrounded by love and encouragement to feel.