Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
A friend recently lost her sister in law to cancer and asked for advice on how to tell her young children their aunt had died.
In a similar situation I wouldn’t know how to start.
I didn’t lose anyone close until my late teens and have no experiences to draw on. I can imagine myself failing to comfort a desperately sad child whilst trying to handle my own grief.
When it happens to us, I don’t want to be completely clueless about how to help my daughter or scrabbling around on Google for any scraps of advice I can find.
So without wanting to be morbid, I read around for advice from others who have been through it.
I’ve sumarised all the suggestions I found below in the hope that it might help anyone else having to help a child handle the death of a loved one …
Suggestions for Coping with Grief
- Tell child as soon as possible after death
- Ensure child is told by you or someone they know and trust
- Use simple direct words e.g. dead rather than expressions they can misinterpret
- Don’t be tempted to put off – children will sense something is wrong
- Explain to very young children what dead means
- Try to answer questions truthfully & say you don’t know if you don’t
- Be patient if keep asking when coming back
- Don’t be afraid to show your own grief including tears
- Let child’s school, nursery, family friends etc know about the death
- Try to keep to routines as much as possible
- Give chance to attend funeral
- Offer chance to put something in coffin e.g. a farewell letter
- Be prepared for them to be disturbed by cremation
- Read some books in which people or animals die
- Keep talking about person who died
- Create a memory box they can look at from time to time
- Be prepared for big swings in mood & emotion
- Be prepared for children to be angry
- Be prepared for physical problems e.g. bed wetting
- If someone is terminally ill prepare child for death
If you feel able to share advice from your own experience it would be very welcome.