Explaining Death to a Child

Everyone has to deal with the pain of losing someone they love. Death is natural, and unfortunately, a common thing. For children, losing their parents or grandparents once they’ve left hospic care can be an exceptionally difficult and painful experience. As everyone grieves differently, it is important to know how to tell someone that they have lost their loved one. For children, death may be a difficult subject to talk about. We all must be prepared for this talk with we have a child, or a younger relative.

Explaining death to a young child may be the most difficult because they are confused and have not been faced with the reality of death. Therefore, honesty will help them cope in a more positive manner. Sympathy towards those who have lost someone they love can be a great emotion, along with compassion, understanding, and having patience. Telling a child that their grandparents have died can be stressful.

Here are some basic tips on explaining death to a child:

  • Tell the child in a familiar, safe, and comfortable place
  • Tell them as soon as possible: do not wait to tell them
  • Be honest and clear with your thoughts
  • Tell them with few details: don’t explain too much
  • Do not use euphemisms; this can confuse the child about what death is
  • Be prepared for questions: they may have a lot of questions
  • Answer their questions as basically and honestly as possible
  • Offer hugs as needed, make them feel safe, loved, and comforted
  • Keep sending the message to the child that there is no right or wrong way to feel about losing their loved one
  • Sharing spiritual thoughts on death may also help with grief. Sometimes people cope by using their religious beliefs or spiritual beliefs
  • Explain how the body doesn’t work and the doctors cannot fix it, and the body stopped working all together. This simple, but honest, explanation can help the child realize what death is.

If your child is having difficulty understanding death, or may have a hard time dealing with the death of a loved one, taking them to a counselor may be a good option. Counselors can monitor the emotions of the child, and work with the emotions. The job of the counselor in this situation is to help with aftercare.

All people can benefit from these basic principles as we may all need a shoulder to cry on when we lose someone that we love. Sharing the experience of death can be very challenging, but it can also bring people together. As we grieve we must remember we are not alone. Aftercare is necessary for those who need help grieving, and a strong support group can allow for an easier acceptance of loss. We all need aftercare, whether it be from a close friend or relative, to a counselor or clergy member, when someone we love dies.

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