Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Talking to Kids About Death

I have a chapter in HEALING about supporting children and teenagers while grieving. Still, there's so much more to explore on this subject.

Every age presents its own challenges and unique needs. From a toddler's confusion over a missing parent to a high schooler's rebellion after the death of a sibling, the response of a caregiver will change dramatically. It's not just age that dictates how you should deal with their pain, though. As every parent knows, personality determines your approach. From how you break the news to how you observe birthdays, you will likely handle every child differently.

I would like to hear from you now. Tell me about your experiences. Did someone close to you die when you were young? Are you the parent of a grieving child?

If so, what has/has not worked for you? What do you say or do for other young people now after a death? What you NOT say or do?

Thanks so much. Your honest answers will help others know how to best comfort another child, and to avoid saying those words that haunt you still.


  1. My grandpa died in hospice a few months ago, and my daughters are 8 and 11 years old. When we visited Gramps in his last days, I didn't force my girls to hug or kiss goodbye but explained that it would be the last time they'd see him and let them decide what felt right for them. I asked my kids what they wanted--both asked me to write notes to their teachers explaining why they might be sad. The older one wanted people to ask about Gramps and the younger one did not. I told them when I was feeling sad and cried with them and asked many many times whether they had questions. Both asked questions--sometimes about the funeral or burial, sometimes about Grandpa's favorite foods or other "Grandpa stories." Through our grief, we have all been open with one another, and I feel like they are not afraid to ask me anything. Here's their own advice: My 11-year-old says "Let kids ask a lot a lot a lot of questions" (set aside 1 time each day for questions) and never say "stop crying" or "it will be fine." My 8-year-old says it's good to say, "you'll always have good memories in mind of the person who died."

  2. Oh no! I just wrote a long response to Heather, and now it's gone:(

    Let's give it another quick try.


    I'm sorry your grandfather has died, but I'm so thankful he was surrounded by a loving family and hospice care.

    Your tips for supporting kids after a death are wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to share what worked for you and your girls.

    I wish every child had the kind of freedom to grieve their own way the way you allowed your children.

    Please thank them for me for offering their advice. They obviously have a great understanding of what kids need, and I appreciate their willingness to pass it on.

    Thanks again, Heather!


  3. You know, I always hated that we never talked about my grandparents after they passed away. I think I would have appreciated the freedom to share memories and I would have been interested to hear memories from my parents. Not being able to talk about it made their absence so much bigger . . .


When someone dies, (other than attending the service), I do this for the family-