Honesty is the Best Policy When Addressing Death with Children
The death of a loved one can be a painful experience for anyone, but for a child, it can be especially difficult. It’s important that adults provide an environment that promotes healing. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offers suggestions on how to help children cope with loss.
It may be difficult to inform a child about the death of a loved one, but honesty is the best policy. Avoid using euphemisms, such as “Grandma is sleeping” or “Uncle John went on a long trip.” For young children, be straightforward and use simple phrases, such as “…the person’s body has stopped working and won’t work anymore.” For older children, more details may be appropriate.
Many often wonder whether children should attend funerals. Experts agree that it is healthy for children to attend the funerals of their loved ones. Prior to the funeral, parents should discuss with their child what will happen at the visitation, funeral or memorial service. Be honest and clear – children take things literally, so avoid being vague in your descriptions.
If a child feels comfortable, they may wish to play a role in the funeral service. Let them read a poem or letter, or sing or play a song during the service. Funeral directors can find ways for the child to participate in the service.
Just like adults, death is something a child will not just “get over.” In addition to having a confidant who provides continuous love and assurance, there are other ways adults can help children cope with grief.
Be a role model: Children often imitate what they see. They will look to their parents or other significant adults for cues about grieving. It’s important for children to know it’s okay to express their emotions following the death of a loved one.
More Tips For Helping Children Deal With Grief:
Find peer support: For many people, identifying with peers who are going through a similar experience can be uplifting. The camaraderie of a grief support group can be a powerful healing tool.
Incorporate ritual: Whether it’s lighting a candle, helping scatter cremated remains or taking part in an activity that was special to the deceased, rituals can help a child focus on the memory of their loved one.
Use the arts: It may be difficult for children to verbalize their feelings; the arts can be an outlet for expressing grief. Writing, painting, poetry, music and crafts can help children express what they are experiencing.
Continue reading “Children & Grief: Coping With A Death” »