Helping children cope with death

The death of a loved one affects everyone in the family, including children. During this difficult time, children will confront many of the same emotional challenges as adults. It is important that the child’s sense of loss is recognised in the period following the death of a loved one. Adults have a tendency to try and protect children from the pain but they, too, must be allowed to come to terms with their new circumstances.

Children should always be told the truth about death regardless of their age.  Small children particularly will ask many questions in their desire to grasp the concept of death.

Older children may deal with death in a different way.  They may be angry that someone they love has died and not wish to communicate their feelings to anyone.  This is when they need to be included in discussions such as the funeral arrangements, ask them for their opinions and do not push them if they don’t respond.

A bereavement in a family is a very emotional time, a time for togetherness, talking about the deceased and “having a good cry or laugh together”.

Children should be encouraged to attend the viewing and funeral if they wish to do so.  A small role such as lighting a candle or carrying a photo or flower could help them feel they haven’t been left out of an important occasion just because they are children.

Whatever questions children of any age ask about death or funerals, they should be answered honestly and tell them if you don’t know the answer.

Always let them know they can ask again if they are still confused and you are still there even if someone else they love has gone. Schools are a great resource of information.