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How Do We Begin to Talk to Children About the Death of a Loved One?


Dealing with the loss of a loved one is the hardest thing any of us face. Unfortunately, ‘death’ is something we will all experience; so how on earth do we possibly go about talking about such a sad topic with a child? Children are innately curious; they love to ask questions, find things out and make new discoveries. For them, investigating the concept of death and dying is no different, so you can expect them to ask all manner of questions, when a loss does occur in the family.

“Will they ever come back?”

Particularly a question asked by younger children, many will ask whether or not their deceased loved one will return. Given that death is a very ‘final’ concept, it might be difficult for them to grasp initially, so ensuring they are aware from the very beginning that this person won’t come back is essential. This particular conversation will be painful, especially if you have just lost someone close to you as well, but patience is necessary and will be extremely beneficial.

For this question, it might be worth seeking the help of bereavement counselling professionals who might be more able to remain impartial, especially as it may cause a lot of upset for you if the death is very raw. Depending on the age of your child, seeking help and advice from their school, probably by going directly to their class teacher, may be one of the greatest sources of help available. Don’t forget, teachers are trained to deal with bereavement and have experience in dealing with children who all have unique grief journeys.

“Where have they gone?”

The answer to this question will depend heavily on your own personal beliefs. If you are somebody, for instance, who finds comfort in a particular religion, then seeking help from your spiritual community will both help and give you additional comfort. However, if you don’t have a set belief, this might be one of the hardest questions you will face. For this, you will want to try and keep an open mind where you can and be considerate to the child’s feelings and age. Now might be an ideal time to explore many different beliefs and allow the child to choose which they feel more drawn to and find most comforting.

Whether you are religious or not, death can be a time for everyone to question their beliefs. Due to this, exploring and researching, along-side your child, might be beneficial for you both. By reading, watching and talking about your findings, you may also discover meaning during this otherwise confusing time.

No parent or guardian wants to have these conversations with children; but unfortunately, they are a necessity. In the long run, children will benefit from conversations like these and know they are able to ask you even the most difficult questions. Remember, it will take a lot of courage for a child to ask about a topic such as this, so approach it with sincerity, comfort and praise. If you are looking for more ways to handle a bereavement, while also tackling questions your child might have, Child Bereavement UK has loads of valuable resources you can use to help you on this heart-breaking journey. 

By Rebecca Thomas