How to talk to children

Like us, children need to grieve the death of a loved one and in fact may cope much better than we do. They must be told as soon as possible that a person they care about has died and know they can share their feelings with the rest of the family. Here are some helpful ways to talk with children after a loved one’s passing.

Children under six may not fully understand, but they can still feel sad. Be honest when you answer their questions and reassure them with lots of hugs and kisses. Affirm that everyone else is still there and that it is not their fault.

For 6-10 year-old children, it helps to let them see that you are grieving too. Let them know they don’t ‘have to be brave’ and it’s okay to talk about someone who has died. They should be gently told what to expect at the viewing and funeral.

Older children need to be treated as adults. Talk to them openly and share your grief with them. Ask for their suggestions on ways to memorialise a loved one. It’s also a good idea to let their school, sports coach, youth groups know what they are experiencing.

Ideas to help children grieve

At the funeral giving a child a special job to do like carrying a flower or candle or writing a poem or letter to place in the coffin will help them feel that they are important. It will also help them understand the finality of death.