How do I tell my child that a loved one has passed away?
Death is a topic that we want to keep away from children for as long as possible, or rather we would prefer to leave it out completely. This is often due to the uncertainty of how to package such a difficult topic in a way that is child-friendly. However, this topic is particularly exciting for children and above all, unfortunately, we cannot protect them completely from it. It also lays the foundation for how children deal with loss and grief later in life. Questions naturally arise, how do I explain the death to my child or how do I tell my child that a loved one has passed away? And how does my child deal with the grief or how do children actually grieve? This article is about this delicate issue.
Children often come into contact with the subject of death at an early age. In a fairy tale, through friends, through dead insects and wild animals they perceive in their environment, through a deceased pet.
First, let's deal with the question, how does a child understand death? Basically, depending on their age, children deal with the topic in completely different ways. Children of preschool age usually hardly understand that death is something final and can no longer be reversed. This is because children at this age do not yet have a strong understanding of time and duration. For her, death is something like a long sleep from which the deceased will eventually wake up or come back. As a rule, children between the ages of six and nine develop an understanding of death.
Here are a few tips on how to deal with this difficult and stressful topic.
Soft the questions from your child not enough, it is completely normal and understandable that your child is curious and has many questions about this topic. Answer every question your child has, books can help. give to your child simple and short answers, it makes no sense to explain a long and severe course of the disease to your child. That would only overwhelm your child. Instead, you can explain to him that the bodily functions stopped working, "Grandpa's body stopped working, his heart stopped beating, he couldn't breathe, walk, eat, speak.". Hold those too reasons for death as direct and clear as possible “Grandpa was old, his body didn't work anymore. The body was tired from living so long.”
Show your own emotions. Grief is an important part of healing. Explain to your child that adults are also sad, sometimes cry and miss the deceased too. Your child will notice that you are not doing well and will be very insecure if they do not know the reason. Of course it's better for your child if you don't break down completely in front of him, but you can't and don't have to plan and control your feelings. If the tears flow with you too, it is important to explain them to your child, "I just miss grandpa a lot - and crying then does quite well, later I'll feel better again."
Avoid euphemisms (euphemistic descriptions), of course you want to protect your child and it sounds nicer or more harmless to say that grandpa is now sleeping forever. But it is important that you name dying and death directly, otherwise children may develop fears that when they fall asleep they will also "sleep forever".
Depending on yours of course Religion, before that, think about how you talk about God and heaven. Statements like "grandpa was a good person, that's why he's in heaven now" could trigger insecurities and fears in your child, what if grandpa wasn't a good person? You should formulate such statements like this: "Of course we miss grandpa here a lot, but we know that he is in heaven now and that he is doing well there." This will comfort your child because it now knows that his beloved grandpa is too when he is no longer among the living is fine. With small children that is symbol of heaven as a final resting place, quite apart from religion, often makes sense and is more tangible. Trying to explain to a preschooler that there is nothing after death or that everything is over is difficult and absolutely incomprehensible for your child. You can also explain to your child, some people believe this and that, others that, but no one knows for sure.
If you have several children, it is best to tell them together, even if there is a large age difference. In such situations is just the family cohesion important. In addition, siblings can support each other in such difficult situations. You can talk to your older children separately afterwards if you see a need there.
It is important that your child definitely gets the chance to learn from the deceased say goodbye. For example, your child can draw a picture for the deceased and think about which flowers to put on the grave. If possible, take your child to the funeral if it was a close relative. Beforehand, of course, it should be explained what happens at a funeral.
We wish you a lot of strength for the upcoming time!