How To Talk About Death With Children

Adults naturally want to shield children from upsetting news, but sadness is unavoidable when they have to tell them a loved one has died. So, how do you go about discussing death with a child?

Whether it comes as a shock or is expected, having to relive grief to tell a young person someone has died is not easy. 

Child Bereavement recommends telling them as soon as possible, as keeping it hidden only adds to the confusion and makes breaking the news even harder.

Letting them know in a place away from distractions is a good idea, as well as using simple language they can understand.

“Use clear words, such as ‘he has died’, as these are easier for children to understand that ‘lost’, ‘passed away’ or gone to the stars’,” it advised. 

Grown-ups should ask if the children have any questions, but try to keep explanations short and age-appropriate. Let them know what will happen now, including who will take them to school or their clubs, when the funeral will be, and how the next few days will look, so they are not overwhelmed by all the changes taking place. 

Some children might forget or not understand what has been told, so the information may need to be repeated, which can be hard when mourning too. 

However, the charity reassures adults that it is good to let children to see you cry or have emotions, explaining to them “it is OK to be sad sometimes and happy sometimes when someone dies”. 

Kids Health also says one of the best things to do is listen and comfort, whether they get emotional, stay silent, ask lots of questions, or do not react at all. 

“Stay with your child to offer hugs or comfort. Answer your child’s questions. Or just be together for a few minutes,” it advises. 

Take a look at our memorial bookmarks that can be given to guests, such as children, to keep their loved one close after they have died.