When a loved one passes away, it can be really hard for family and friends to come to terms with that person not being around anymore, but for a child understanding death can be a very confusing concept to grasp in general, let alone if the person who has passed away is their parent, grandparent, brother or sister.

This will be one of the hardest conversations to have, but it is important that a child understands what death actually means. Some younger children may not understand that death is permanent and may think that the person will come back at some point. Child Bereavement UK suggest an explanation along the lines of ‘when someone dies, their body stops working, and because their body has stopped working, they can’t come back to life, even though we may really want them to’

How do you tell a child that someone important in their life has passed away?

It is really important to tell a child of any age when someone important has died. This should be done by the person who is the closest to them.

Tell them as soon as possible

Talk to your child as soon as possible. Ideally, this should be in a place where they feel comfortable, supported and away from other distractions.

Use clear language

Use language and words that are very clear and simple for them to understand. As harsh as it may feel, using language like ‘she has died’ is easier for them to understand than ‘passed away’ or ‘gone to live with the angels’.

Answer any questions

Answer any questions they may have as honestly and openly as possible. If they have a question that you may not know the answer to, it is ok to say you don’t know.

Show your emotions

It is ok to show your own emotions when talking to a child about the death of a loved one. Explain to them that you are sad because that person has died, and that it is ok to be sad at times when someone dies.

What will happen

Talk to them about what will happen over the next few days following the death of a loved one. Reassure them about who will take them to school and other activities, tell them if someone else might be looking after them. All of this will help them to feel more secure.

Children, and especially younger children are more likely to show their feelings through behaviour rather than words. Some common reactions include distress, feeling anxious or insecure, anger and confusion about the death and feeling very protective of other loved ones around them. There are many support services available that can offer guidance and support to children experiencing bereavement.

Child Bereavement UK helps support children and young people up to the age of 25 who are experiencing grief, as well as the parents and families of those children. Winston’s Wish is a charity providing specialist bereavement support for children and young people after the death of a parent or a sibling.

If you have any questions or if there is any guidance we can provide to help your child understand what will happen on the day of the funeral, please contact us at SC & BS Cocks Funeral Directors today.