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Helping your child deal with the grief and loss of death

Teaching your child about death is a natural process.

There can be many times in a child's life where they come face to face with the grief and loss of death. It is your responsibility as a parent to make this life milestone as easy to deal with as possible. Often we do not think about telling our children about death until someone (or something) close to us dies, but it is something we should acknowledge before that happens so that our children are more equipped to deal with it when it does happen.

Grief and loss can be traumatic for a child at any age, although many children handle and process the event quite differently. If you have more than one child, be mindful on how they take the news of a death and help them process it accordingly.

Be literal and truthful. Children tend to not understand abstract concepts. Stay away from terms such as 'lost Grandpa' or 'forever sleeping'. These terms can confuse a child, and even scare them. Be sure to tell them how death comes about, such as Grandpa's body stopped working because he was old or Aunt Georgina was in a car accident and her body got hurt. Do not get into specific details but rather give your child only enough information that they need in order to process the event.

Be prepared for questions. A child may have questions right away or they may mull it over for several days before they come to you with their inquiry. Be open and honest and remember to keep your answers age-appropriate for your child. An open dialogue will help your child come to terms with death and know that you are there for them if they need you.

Show your child how to remember and honor a loved one lost. Put together a special photo album, write down special memories they have of their friend or family member, go through the remembrance ceremony with them. All the effort you put into helping your child deal with death will help them now and their entire life as they learn to grieve and deal with the loss of a loved one as time goes on.

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