Talking About Death
CATEGORY: Grief and Loss
BY: Dominique Butler
PUBLICATION: About Grief
Talking to your child about the death of a loved one can be intimidating.
Many parents fear saying the wrong thing and scarring their child for life. Those who have toddlers or preschool age children often worry about their child's ability to understand "death" and its finality. The concept of death is limited for toddlers and preschool age children.
They do not understand that death is irreversible and may not have the words to express their feelings. Therefore it is best to use simple, honest and direct language when speaking with your child. Use good judgment when telling them about the death, but do not worry about protecting them from the truth.
Many children in this age group will exhibit more behavioral symptoms when grieving. They begin to wet the bed, experience nightmares, have temper tantrums, feel separation anxiety, and ask repeated questions.
If you find yourself searching for the right words, below are 10 suggestions to help you talk to your toddler or preschool age child about the death of their loved one and about their grief reactions.
- Give yourself time to talk to your child and time for your child to ask questions.
- Explain that when people die, they don't eat, sleep or breathe.
- Reassure your child that you will be there for them. Ask: What can I do to help?
- Find ways to help your child stay connected to the deceased. Look at pictures, talk about the deceased, etc.
- Draw or paint pictures, play games with them to help them express their feelings.
- Keep their life as normal as possible. Following their normal routine is helpful.
- Reassure them that they won't forget about their loved one.
- Explain that it's okay to be happy.
- Share your feelings.
Remember support, nurturing, and opportunities for creative play and stability are essential.
If you find that your child is in need of more support, please contact us. We are here to assist individuals of all ages adjust to the "new" normal without the deceased and support them through their grief process.