A Matter of Life and Death: Talking to Kids about Loss of a Loved One

emotional kidCoping with the loss of a loved one is difficult, but the emotional struggle is much harder for kids. Along with the sadness, children are confused about the reality of the situation. They will ask many questions: Why did grandmother die? Is she in pain? Will you die, too? Who will take care of me when mommy dies?

Although you can’t shield your kid from the pain of loss, you can help them deal with grief and confusion more properly and let them know that they are safe. Encourage the kids to talk to you and share their feelings. Open communication will help the child understand the reality of loss and eventually facilitate healing.

Understanding Children’s Coping Mechanism

A child may have changing moods after the loss of a loved one. You’ll see them crying one minute and then they’re completely okay and playing with friends the next. This doesn’t mean, though, that the grieving process is over. In fact, playing is a coping mechanism, which keeps the child from being overwhelmed by emotions. Reassure your child. Encourage them to share their feelings. The team of Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries suggests joining grief support groups as a family. With this, you’ll be able to foster open communication, where the child feels secure in sharing their feelings.

Communicating Death Properly

As mentioned earlier, kids have many questions when it comes to death. Try to be discreet in answering questions and explaining death. Don’t reveal too much information because this may overwhelm them. Be careful about being too discreet, too. Don’t euphemize. Explaining that grand mom just “went to sleep” will just create a notion that dead people will come back or make them afraid of going to sleep, as it may cause death. Answer honestly and clearly. Don’t be afraid not to answer questions, too. The important thing is to communicate to your child that you are there for them.

Attending the Funeral

It’s important to ask your child if they want to go or not. Funerals can be helpful in giving closure, but your child may not be prepared for an overwhelming experience like that. If they want to go, make sure that you explain what they could expect. Tell them that people will be crying; the casket will be buried, etc.

Help your child cope with the loss of a loved one by keeping communication lines open. Encourage and constantly reassure them that you are always there for them.