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Tips for Families in Dealing with Death
Children are simply smaller versions of adults. They know stuff. They understand their world
and they think their own thoughts. They have little hearts that get broken. Be kind to them and
speak to them respectfully on all topics, especially death. If you do they will feel comfortable
coming to you in times of trouble. If you don’t, they’ll be forced to go elsewhere.
Like you, children will remember their first death, be it a pet or a family member. They, like
you, will remember the darndest details, really surprising things. So while chaos swirls in your
family, let them know it’s okay to feel sad, confused, and maybe a little helpless. Adults know
loved ones live in our hearts forever, but that’s something that must be explained to a child.
Death is part of life. It’s natural and has great order. Treat it as such and children will
understand. Empower them with language and allow them their own thoughts. Make them safe
in their feelings and they will love you for it.
Tips to make things better. Do’s
1. Talk about everything. Let the child lead. Even young children. Learn what they know
and answer their questions. Mainly listen and be fair. Respect what they are saying. Be
Kind. Sometimes saying “Ummm, “ is all you need to do. Besides, you’ll discover they
might know more than you do.
2. Grow comfortable saying, “I don’t know.” We don’t have answers for everything,
especially on cultural or religious differences. When we attend a funeral, we do so out of
respect. And love. There is no need to worry or feel embarrassed. We are there to honor
and show our respect for a life well lived.
3. Cry. Cry together. Cry often. It’s healthy for everyone.
4. Hold your loved ones. All of them. Include animals. Remember, children are often
forgotten at funerals. You might be the only one to touch the child that day. That
kindness will be remembered forever.
5. Do admit to needing help. Even a child’s help.
Things that make it worse. Don’ts
1. Don’t embarrass a grieving child. They feel pain too, just like adults and they’ll
remember you hurt them. Forever.
2. Don’t ignore grieving children. Just because they don’t know what to say doesn’t mean
they aren’t thinking. They lie awake thinking about Gram too, you know.
3. Don’t pretend you know it all. No one does.
4. Don’t embarrass grieving adults.
5. Don’t worry about school or school marks after a major trauma or loss. Children will
catch up when ready, and not before.
6. Don’t be shocked if children start sucking their thumbs, having nightmares, or wet the
bed. It’s natural. Be kind. Be supportive. In time, things will heal.
7. Don’t expect children to pretend that nothing has happened. Something has. A big
something has happened.