A Difficult Discussion – Explaining a Loss to Children

Discussing the topic of death with children can be difficult. Many children may not understand the concept of death or how to cope with it at such a young age. Everyone deals with death in different ways, including children, but there are a few ways to make this difficult discussion a bit lighter on both the giver and the receiver of the conversation.

When discussing the general concept of death with a child, it’s important to remain calm and logical. You are their rock, and you will be able to help them through this difficult discussion and time in their life. You may want to prepare them beforehand if a family member is sick and may pass away, and teach them to put their emotions into words. Let your child know that it is normal and okay to cry and feel sadness during the death of a loved one, and don’t be afraid to cry together throughout the discussion of death as well as the healing process.

When discussing the death of a loved one to a young child who has not dealt with death yet, be sure to use simple words. Say things like “your grandfather died yesterday” instead of using terms like “passed away” or “is no longer with us.” This may open the door for your child’s questions, but ultimately, will make the discussion simpler for them to comprehend.

Once your child responds to the initial statement, be there to listen to their response. Let them know that you care about them and that the deceased did, as well. Communicate with your child that death is a part of life, it’s sad, but that you will help them through this difficult time. Let them know that life continues after death and set a good example of this by continuing your child’s daily routine. Routine behavior will help them adjust and continue with their life amidst the grief that they are facing.

You can also help them keep the memory of their loved one alive by doing a special craft or memorial that pays homage to the deceased. Let them know that by doing these activities and talking about their loved one who passed away, they are keeping the memory alive and well and coping with death in a healthy, normal way.

In addition to having a calm and meaningful conversation with your child, there are grief resources such as camps and special events specifically for children to learn how to process death amidst the company of other kids their age. A few examples of this are Shannon’s Hope weekend camp on Seabrook Island, Camp Happy Days’ special events and week-long camp in Manning, SC, and Brett’s Rainbow weekend camp held right outside of Columbia, SC. Visit the Stuhr Funeral Home Website for more information on these important resources.