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Helping Children Through Loss

Here are some things to keep in mind when a death becomes part of a child’s life. 

The child experiencing the loss defines the type of hurt. The resources you can use will be similar in any death situation (sudden or chronic; a parent or a pet). 

  • Reassure the child that he or she is safe and that you are safe. One death does not mean that death is imminent for anyone else.
  • Prepare yourself emotionally. Your strength, focus, and patience will be needed.
  • Understand your role. You are the child’s support person, so if you don’t know the answer to her question, say you don’t know.
  • Expect emotion or lack thereof. Respect any reaction for its value to the individual. There may be more or less emotion than you expect, or the timing of the emotion may surprise you.
  • Use your knowledge of the child and skills of observation to determine your next steps.
  • Listen to the child to discover what he or she knows and understands. More than anything else—listen, listen, listen.
  • Know the facts and the right words and terms. The child may ask you what happened, and you will need to answer honestly in words that the child will understand.
  • Be patient and available on the child’s terms and timeline.
  • Remember, this isn’t about you—although you may need support for yourself.
  • If the circumstances are sudden or tragic, focus on the happiness and goodness in the world—recognize that there is far more of it than there is not.
For a list of additional books and resources that will help you communicate with a child about death, please click here.

Originally published on BrightHorizons

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