Death creates an enormous amount of grief and anxiety. For some, just the thought of explaining the concept of death to their child raises their anxiety level. When it becomes more personalized, like with the thought of discussing the death of a grandparent, those anxiety levels can go through the roof.
Why is discussing death with a child so angst-filled, and what can we do about it? Is one approach better than another? Here are some thoughts on how to explain death to a child.
Why Is It So Challenging?
We sometimes feel like we need to have all the exact answers and explain them correctly. It’s okay to have doubts. In fact, expressing your own feelings can be beneficial for both you and your child. You don’t have to be perfect. Do your best. Death is a complex topic, but you only need to explain it on their level. Just know that the sooner you are able to talk to them about it the better, or your angst level may grow.
Start By Understanding Their Comprehension Level
You do not have to explain all the details of death and a funeral but be ready to answer any of their questions, and they could come at any time. Only use the vocabulary they can understand and don’t over-explain if they seem satisfied with an answer.
Children are challenged by the concept of death in different ways from adults. They may not understand what they don’t understand. They don’t know what comes next or what to expect. Let them know what they are about to experience, who will be there, and why people are sad. Try to take away their fear of the unknown and let them know what is going to happen “today.”
Keep It Simple
Complex explanations may only lead to more confusion and doubts on their part. Try to be sympathetic, but keep explanations simple, honest, and straightforward.
Let your child know that they are not alone in their confusion and sadness and that it is indeed okay, to feel sad. Consider sharing your own feelings and comfort them.
Common Reactions Children May Have to Death
There are some common reactions children can have when discussing death. They may ask the same questions repeatedly. This not only takes patience on your part but a deeper insight into why they are asking that same question. Perhaps they didn’t understand your previous answer or need further explanation. They may also become distant, which may be a sign of confusion. Check in with them without pressuring them to be “okay.” Children may also have angry outbursts or temper tantrums. This can be extremely hard on a parent who is grieving as well. Take your time.
Take some solace in knowing you are not the first nor likely the last parent to do this. Do it lovingly and compassionately.
At the Fares J. Radel Funeral Homes and Crematory, we have considered it our honor and privilege to serve the families in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati for generations. We’ve been there in sickness and through accidents. We assisted some families’ plans and others through traumatizing, unexpected deaths. Each experience is personal and unique, and we understand that.
If your family doesn’t have a funeral director it can turn to when pre-planning or in need, we would be honored to be considered for that role. Please feel free to connect with us anytime at the Fares J. Funeral Homes and Crematory.