Most children are aware of death, but don’t really understand it. We all hope our children will never have to deal with the pain of loss and grief during childhood, but we can’t protect them from it. What we can do, is make them feel safe when it happens.
Young children will not understand the complete concept of death. Try to find out what your child does understand and what is appropriate for his/her age. Be aware of the fact that every child grieves differently, there is no manual for grieving. Show him/her that it is okay to feel sad, cry, or even be angry at some moments. Expressing feelings can help in processing the loss.
Don’t use euphemisms such as ‘he went to sleep for a long time’. It’s better to be direct and explain the person or pet has died. Using an euphemism such as sleep will make your child feel afraid to go to sleep, thinking he or she might never wake up again.
Attending the funeral can be helpful for closure, and in case of the death of a pet, arrange your own funeral. Give your child the chance to say goodbye in his own way and don’t avoid talking about the deceased ones: look into photo albums, talk about good memories and even cry together (if appropriate).
If your child is extremely upset or unable to cope with grief and loss, don’t hesitate to contact an expert!
Marlieke & Muna 🙂