Helping Children Cope with Death

They may ask questions about why the person died or seek information about who or what caused the death. They will then direct anger toward the someone or something that caused it. If the child wants to talk about how the crash happened, you can explain some of the events, like the substance impaired driving crash that caused the death. A child may not understand what a “drunk or drugged driver” is. You can explain how alcohol and drugs are different from milk or juice. You can explain that alcohol or drugs can make a person feel sick, dizzy and unable to stand or walk straight. Explain that a driver’s ability to drive was affected by the alcohol or other drugs. Focus upon one component of the crash at a time. Although children this age can easily express glad, mad and sad, their magical thinking may also lead to guilt feelings regarding their role in the death. Children may become mad and, at some point, may have wished to eliminate their parents and/or siblings while alive and may have even thought of different ways to do it. The child in this age group may believe that their “death wish” actually caused the death. Children are more susceptible to feelings of guilt than adults or adolescents, since children cannot call upon intellectual resources to persuade themselves of their innocence. It is important to reinforce over and over again that they did not cause the


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