Helping Children Cope with Death

another responsible adult for a short period of time. Talk About the Death Honest and appropriate answers to children’s questions about death are best, particularly those that are developmentally appropriate. Like adults, children may experience a great deal of ambivalence about the finality of death. Children may insist that their loved one is alive or that the loved one was seen breathing or opening their eyes in the casket. Help children to understand that physical

Reinforce to children that their loved one did not choose to die.

death, in itself, does not hurt. The family is crying because they hurt inside. The sadness comes from the fact that a relationship that meant so much to everyone has now been lost.

Reinforce the fact to young children that their loved one did not choose to die. In life, people are given choices, and some make bad choices, such as using alcohol or other drugs and then driving. These choices can hurt and kill other people. It is no one’s fault except the person who made the bad choice. Write down ways you answer your child’s questions about death. If kept in a journal, these responses can be used later as a reference for future discussions. Communicate with school personnel, extended family, and friends regarding your way of explaining death. If they understand your philosophy, confusing messages can be avoided. Use caution when communicating with younger children, as they are concrete thinkers. Making statements like, “To die is to go to sleep” may frighten a child, fearing that if he/she goes to sleep that he/she will die too. A statement like, “Your daddy has gone away for a very long time” may leave a child feeling abandoned, and


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