Skip navigation

Вітаємо вас у Довіднику безбар’єрності

«У комунікації приховано набагато більше сенсів, ніж нам здається. Цей Довідник допоможе розкрити нові, додаткові смисли, коли в центрі уваги – людина та її різноманіття. І це стане першим кроком у формуванні нової етики спілкування».

Перша леді
Олена Зеленська

How to inform a child about the loss of a loved one

02.03.2022

It is always difficult to talk about death, especially with children. A child may think that an adult has left them because of something they did, or because they are a “bad child”. Or vice versa – that the person who died was bad, because he left his loved ones. This may lead to the misconception that no one can be trusted in this world, because even a loved one betrayed them.

            The child’s reaction to the death of a loved one will be different, depending on their age and experience. Wrong words can cause fears and trauma. Most children are more likely to understand and accept the natural death of an older person. The unexpected death of a young person strikes them harder.

   The most important thing is not to hide the truth and not to stall too much

  1. It is not necessary to go into detail of how it happened. If the death was sudden, you should simply say that the person died and will never be with us. If a loved one died from a prolonged illness, be upfront about it: say the person was ill, the doctors did everything they could.

   If you honestly tell your child what happened, they will trust you more, and it will help them deal with the loss. In general, if the child does not ask questions, do not say too much.

  1. The child should be informed about the death by the person closest to them – the one they trust the most and with whom they can share the grief.
  2. Try to find a safe and quiet place to talk to your child and think ahead about what you are going to say.
  3. Ask your child to sit next to you. If they are still young enough to have a comfort blanket or a toy that they carry everywhere, let them hold it.
  4. Speak slowly and pause to give your child time to understand and for you to keep your feelings in check. Say something along the lines of: “Although this person will no longer be in your life, their love will not disappear. They will remain in your memory forever.”
  5. The child should be given time to understand this information. Young children may react as if they are not listening to you. Be patient and get their attention. Also, be prepared for younger children to ask the same questions over and over again, both during the conversation and over the next few days and weeks.
  6. If you decide to take your child to the funeral, be sure to tell them what’s going to happen there. And make sure that there is a person next to them who would take care of them on the spot. It may not be a close relative or friend of the family – just someone whom the child knows well, but who is not consumed by grief.
  7. If you decide not to take the child to the funeral, then be sure to go to the grave of the deceased and give the child an opportunity to say their goodbyes. Show them the deceased person’s final resting place. If the child wants to bring a token of their love and leave it at the grave, let them do so. Or they could prefer to just talk. Let the child choose what to do.
  8. Do not use the memory of a deceased person to influence your child’s behavior. For example, avoid saying things like: “Don’t shout, because your grandmother is looking down on you.”
  9. If a child asks about a deceased loved one, try not to block out the memories. Ask what she would like to say to that person. As what, in their opinion, would be the answer. Show them photos and videos of the loved one. Turn memories of a lost loved one into bedtime stories. Remember the pleasant, fun, warm memories you shared with the loved one.
  10. Do not deny the child’s feelings by saying things such as “Do not cry”, “Calm down”. Instead, accept any emotion. They need to be spoken about (sadness, grief) and helped to express (anger, aggression). Talking about a dead person is often a way to help express feelings.

 * Recommendations by psychologist Natalia Akulshina

1210 views

Was this article helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Sorry, share your impressions with us