When a loved one dies the pain can be unbearable. Everyone handles death in a different way. Some feel, some don’t allow themselves to feel, and some don’t begin the mourning process for quite some time after. Death is hard to handle, no matter how old you are.
This is especially true for young children since death can be a difficult concept to grasp. If you need to discuss death with your children, it’s important to communicate honestly and openly to your kids. We’ve made the mistake of trying to “hide” a death before from young children and it only backfired on us because we did not give them the chance to grieve.
My mother in law Daisy passed last week. I have yet to tell my toddler and I’ve been pretty confused on how to explain it. I turned to the internet to do some research, but mostly I turned to friends who have been through the same. There is a book that kept coming up in the conversations I was having…The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (thanks Mommy Mafia), it is even recommended by Bereavement Support Groups and Hospice Centers. I recently ordered it and we will be reading it to Em this week prior to the burial services. I’m still unsure of how everything will play out, but I want her to have the opportunity to grieve for her Abuela.
I put together some tips to help guide you in discussing death with your children. I hope you never have to go through this, but if you do, I am here for you.
Be Open & Honest
If you need to discuss death with your children, make sure you’re being open and honest with them. Let your children know in a direct way that their grandma or pet has died. Let them know what that means, including the fact that they won’t get to see or talk to them again. This will be hard for your children to hear at first, but the sooner they are able to process the information, the sooner they can cope with the idea of death and grieve their loved one.
Make It Age Appropriate
You’ll want to approach the topic of death differently depending on how old your children are. If you have younger children, you still need to let them know that a loved one or pet has died and what that means, but you’ll want to explain it in a simpler way. As your kids get older, you can give them more details about the cause of death. For example, you can let your child know that a grandparent had a heart attack or that they died from having cancer and further explain what causes these things.
Show Your Emotions
Don’t be afraid to show your emotions when discussing death with your children. Death is a sad thing, so hiding your emotions so that you can “be strong” in front of your kids will confuse them. They need to see you cry and mourn so that they know it’s okay for them to mourn as well.
Explaining death to your children isn’t the end. Your children will take some time to process the information and think it through. Most likely, they’ll have a ton of questions to ask you in the days and weeks following a loved one’s death. They might even bring up the subject of death months later. Although it can be difficult for you to have this constant reminder, it’s important that you keep communicating with your kids about death. Feel free to discuss your loved one’s life, sharing good memories with your kids. Celebrate the good things and the life that they led.
The more comfortable your children feel discussing death, the easier it will be for them to understand and cope with this loss. Have you had to discuss death with your children? Do you have any tips to share with our fellow readers?