Talking to children about death is not easy. Every child is different, and their reactions can be unexpected when a loved one passes on. Here is our advice for helping you to guide your child along their grief journey.
Assess Their Understanding
Children have different levels of understanding when it comes to death, often depending on how old they are. It’s important to find out what they understand and what they don’t, as this will help you guide them appropriately. It can be helpful to start your conversation by asking them some questions about what kind of thoughts they have about the situation. These questions could be something like “Do you know why mummy/daddy is sad today?” or “What do you know about what’s been going on?” for example. Take the time to listen to everything they have to say.
Avoid Complex Explanations
Children are naturally curious and may ask questions you are unprepared for. As adults, we tend to use euphemisms when we speak about death. However, children can find these confusing and difficult to comprehend. For example, if you say the person has ‘passed away’ your child is unlikely to even know what this means, and may still think that the person is coming back soon. If you say that the person has ‘gone to sleep forever’ your child may think there’s a chance they could go to sleep and not wake up. Regardless of how you would like to explain death, try to keep your explanation simple and straightforward, with minimal euphemism.
When having a conversation with a child about the death of a loved one, it is important to provide reassurance. This is more than reassuring them that they will be looked after, and that the death is not their fault. Reassure your child that their emotions are valid. People can react to death in a wide variety of ways, and your child’s emotional reaction may be different to yours. They may react in a way that you do not expect, and if they do, it’s important to remain supportive and show that you understand.
Prepare For Questions Later On
Your child’s emotional response may vary, and they will likely have new questions once they have had a bit more time to process their grief. Try to think about questions they may ask in the future, and how you will respond to them. Again, it’s important to always be supportive through their journey of grief. Make sure to answer any questions as best you can, even when they pop up at unexpected moments.
Rosetown Funeral Home proudly serves the people of Te Awamutu and the surrounding areas. We are here to support families through their grief journeys however we can. You can read more articles about grief and healing on our blog. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our friendly team at any time.