Helping a Child to Cope with Death

Just like adults, children will experience and express grief in their own way. There is no way of predicting how your child will respond to the loss of a loved one, and their age will have a big impact on their ability to process what has happened. If they were particularly close to the person who has passed away, it’s likely that they will find it harder to adjust to a world without them. Here are some suggestions as to how parents can help a child who is coping (or struggling to cope) with the death of a loved one.

Use Clear Language

If you are breaking the news to the child, it’s best to use simple language and avoid complicated concepts. Tell them what has happened and give them some time to process it before you add any more information or launch into a discussion about feelings.

Listen & Be Open

Your next move will be influenced by your child’s reaction. They may cry and simply need you to hold them for a while; others may appear to not have understood and carry on as they were before. Some will ask questions to try and understand what you’ve said. Give them time to react in their own way and be there to provide hugs, answers or simply a reassuring presence.

Encourage them to Talk About Feelings

Children aren’t always able to communicate how they’re feeling in words so you may need to offer them some options by talking about your feelings. For example, you could say, ‘I feel very sad about Grandad passing away.’ These discussions may happen immediately after the loss but should continue for weeks and months afterward as well. Your child needs to know that it’s natural to be experiencing lots of different emotions and that there’s no time limit on their grief. If you feel your child needs professional support in expressing their emotions, consider seeking out a bereavement counselor.

Discuss Practical Changes to Their Routine

If the deceased person was involved in the child’s regular routine, explain to the child what will be happening from now on so they can prepare for the change. If your family life is likely to be affected in the short term, e.g., you need to travel for the funeral or take care of the deceased’s husband or wife, you should try to keep them up to date with what’s happening.

Talk About the Funeral

You may feel that your child is not old enough or emotionally equipped to attend the funeral, but it’s often a crucial part of the healing process. If they are attending the funeral or memorial service, take the time to discuss what will happen step by step. From the emotions to the different stages of the ritual, it will help them to cope if they understand what’s happening and why.

A death in the family can often be dominated by the practical aspects such as planning and funding a funeral, sorting through belongings or going through the will and testament. It’s at times like this that we take stock of our own lives and consider what would happen to our families if the worst should happen. You should ensure you have written your will and taken out a life insurance policy to give you peace of mind that your family won’t have to struggle if the worst should happen to you. If you still need to do this, contact Local Life Agents for life insurance quotes.

Remember the Person Positively

Rather than dwelling on negative emotions or the concept of death, try to focus your child on the person who has passed away in positive ways. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about their loved one and encourage them to share their happy memories of the person. Grief will take time to heal but that doesn’t mean that we forget the person, and your child needs to keep those positive feelings with them as they progress through life.