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Death & bereavement are hard to grasp for children: Expert shares how to approach topic


Confront any fears

“Often the death of a relative can trigger feelings of fear in children, and worry that someone else, or even themselves, may be ‘next’. Our advice, as always, would be to answer any questions as honestly as possible and provide enough information so that children are not left with gaps in knowledge, so there is no risk that the child may create inaccurate thoughts.”

Don’t use confusing metaphors

“When telling a young child that a close relative or parent has died, it’s important to avoid using metaphors like ‘they have gone to sleep’ or ‘gone away for a long time’ as it can be very confusing for a young child to understand.

“Try and plan in advance some clear and practical language that is age-appropriate for the child to understand. It might sound blunt to other adults, but in the long-term, it will be easier for the child.”

Give children space

“Each bereavement is unique, and children grieve in different ways. It is important to give children space to grieve, but they should also be encouraged to talk about their thoughts and feelings. Do not be alarmed if your child does not look like they have been affected by the death of a close relative. Children cannot sustain emotional pain in the way that adults can and tend to move in and out of grief and can appear to be coping much better than we might expect.”

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