Faqs For Helping Children Grieve The Loss Of A Family Member

by : Susan Epstein

Coping with a death in the family is one of the most difficult challenges that you and your children will ever undertake. Before you begin explaining death to your child, it may be very helpful to look back at your own childhood experiences with death.

Did anyone talk to you about death?

What did they tell you about death?

Did you have stories about death that you never spoken? about?

Do you remember what you were told about what happens? when someone dies?

Because of their own past experiences, some parents think they need to protect their children from dealing with death.


1. How do I explain death to a young child?

Tell your children the truth and answer your child’s questions. Go to the library and take out children’s books on death and read them to your child.

2. How should I tell my child?

Use language they can understand. Be careful not to use the words “went away", “lost", etc. Young children will take you very literally and want to know why Grandpa has not returned or will want to know when we will go look for him.

3. How much information should I share with my child?

Use common sense for how much information you need to share based on developmental stage of your child. Keep it simple, for example “Grandpa got sick and his heart stopped working.

4. Should I bring to my child to the funeral or service?

If your child can sit through a service without you having to entertain him/her or having to get up and take him or her out, s/he is able to go to the funeral.

5. Should I let my child see me cry?

Grieve in front of your child. (Do not hide your sadness, instead show it is okay to cry when someone dies.)

6. What should I say when my child sees me sad?

Your child will ask you if you are sad. Answer him/her, “Yes, I am, because I loved Grandpa very much."

7. How do I keep the memories alive of the loved one who has died? died?

Talk with your child about the experiences that they had with the loved one. Look at photos together and make it okay to bring up the loved one’s name.

8. What if my child thinks that I will also die?

Explain to your child that that is not likely- but be careful. We all will die. We just don’t know when. Most people live a long life.

9. How do I know if my child is grieving in the “right way"?

There is no right way to grieve. Every child will grieve differently. And there is no length of time when your child should be “done" or “over it". It is a process and grief needs to run its course.

10. What do I do if I can't handle it?

Sometimes parents are so overwhelmed themselves in grieving that they would benefit from some help and guidance. A parent coach can help you take care of yourself while simultaneously providing support and caring for your children following a death in the family.