Grief is challenging for adults to experience. It can be especially difficult on children who may not fully understand what is happening or who may not have the verbal skills to express their thoughts and feelings. How can adults better help children cope with the death of a loved one? Here are some suggestions.
Use Words a Child Can Understand
When talking to a child about the death of a loved one, be honest and compassionate about the death but also use words that the child is sure to understand. They may be already confused about the death and using unfamiliar words or medical terminology may just serve to confuse them more. It can be tempting to make up stories about death to a child but such stories may do more harm than good. Stating that “Grandpa has gone on a long trip” for example, may set up expectations for a return.
As an adult, you can help a child through their grief and confusion by asking if they have any questions throughout your conversation. Answer each question frankly and confirm their understanding. Observe the child looking for clues in how they feel through their behavior. Children may express grief in varying ways, through silence, drawings and even through play.
Explain the Process
You can help a child through the days following a death by explaining what they will experience. It’s fine to explain that people will be sad because they are saying goodbye to the loved one. Mention that funerals are a way we say goodbye when someone dies and how important it is to have each other to share our sadness. It the days immediately following a death it can be helpful to tell the child what is likely to happen that day. If the child seems open it can be helpful to ask if they have any questions about the day’s events.
Sharing memories is a powerful way to bond and help a child through their grief. Explain how valuable it is to have and hold onto those fond memories.
This is a Learning Opportunity
Always keep in mind that as unpleasant as it may be, a death is a learning experience for a child. They will rely on adults for love and compassion. Like adults, each child will grieve differently. While they don’t need to know every detail, an overview of what to expect and why it is happening can be helpful.
The Cremation Society of Northern Kentucky is committed to helping residents throughout the region learn more about cremations and the value of pre-planning. We also are here to assist families with their questions and to help them through the grieving process. Should you have questions or need assistance in a time of need, we would be honored to serve you.