Why Talking To Children About Death Is Important

Losing a loved one is incredibly difficult for anyone to deal with, but particularly children, who may never have experienced a death in the family before. Although it might be painful to talk to your little ones about dying, it is something that every parent should do, according to an end-of-life educator.

Christa Ovenell, who created Death’s Apprentice, based in Vancouver, said it is important to prepare children for death. 

While most people do not like to think about themselves, or anyone close to them, dying, it is a natural course of life. Therefore, young people need to be made more aware of from the beginning. 

Speaking with CBC, Ms Ovenell said: “Think about it, for example, in Mexico, where we would have a weeklong celebration for the Day of the Dead, that we would actually go and make our dead a part of our life.”

She went on: “We don’t do that here. Because we are a death-denying society. And that’s what makes it so hard.”

It is especially important if someone close to the child is ill and are likely to die. Marie Curie recognises that adults tend to protect kids by not telling them the truth about what is going on. 

However, this can lead to youngsters feeling more anxious and confused, as they are not sure what is happening. 

“They might prefer to know, even if it’s sad, rather than trying to cope with not knowing,” the charity stated. 

Talking to a child about death can help them feel better supported and more secure. They may have fears or questions that they’re worried about bringing up. Talking about death might make them feel more comfortable to ask these questions, and they might feel more able to talk about their feelings,” it advised. 

Adults should not be worried about showing their own emotion, as this can help children feel comfortable in displaying theirs too. It encourages them to know it is okay to open up about their feelings and helps them with their grieving process. 

On the other hand, if they are not told about death, they can start creating their own thoughts and explanations. They may think they can ‘catch the illness’, they might believe they caused the death, or they may think they are the reason why someone is not around anymore. 

Even though everyone is going to die and be affected by death in their lifetime, it is one subject most people are afraid of talking about. By avoiding the topic, CBC author Amy Bell believes this creates the same fear in our children as well. 

“If we push through that discomfort and openly discuss [death] with our kids, we take their fearful power away,” she stated. 

Parents who do want to discuss death with their children should use straightforward language when doing so. Ms Ovenell recommends using words like ‘died’ instead of ‘passed away’, ‘resting’, ‘in another place’, as these are confusing for youngsters. 

It is also a good idea to ask if they have any questions, so they can any worry answered straight away. 

Handing out memorial bookmarks at the funeral is also a good way to help children keep a memory of their loved one close by.