Losing a loved one is never easy, helping your kids process the loss can be even harder. Learn how to talk to kids about death and losing a loved one.
How To Talk To Kids About Death
We don’t like seeing our children get hurt and we go to great lengths to protect them. Unfortunately, we can’t shield them from all the harsh realities of life. Death is one of those things we all have to confront at some point and few things can compare to the sadness we feel when a loved one passes away.
While losing a loved one is always painful, with age we get more used to coping with the pain. For kids and teens, it’s a different matter and they can take it quite hard. This makes it a tricky task to explain death, help kids make sense of it and go through everything while managing your own feelings over the loss.
There isn’t an easy way to get through it, so here are some tips to help grieving kids and teens to process all of it.
Be truthful from the onset.
We’re often afraid of saying someone died, especially when talking to younger kids. However, using terms like “gone to be with the angels” or “passed on” can confuse them. It’s always better to be upfront and honest from the start. You don’t have to go into details about the death, but be simple and direct when breaking news of a loved one’s passing. For example, you can say, “I have some sad news. Grandpa died today.”
Allow both you and your children to feel the emotions that come with loss.
Being open about how the death makes you feel can help your children learn how to grieve. Teens especially struggle with strong emotions and seeing you handle yours can give them clues on how to behave. Don’t hide your grief, seeing you mourn and cry lets your children know that it’s normal and healthy to express sad feelings after a loss.
Also, don’t shy away from talking about the thoughts and feelings brought about by the death of a loved one. Encourage your children to say what they’re thinking and feeling and be available to listen, comfort and reassure them.
Let your kids grieve in their own way.
Everyone reacts differently to the death of someone who was close to them, and children are no exception. Some resort to anger, loneliness, and isolation while others are seemingly not affected by the death. Remember there is no right way to grieve so give them space to do it in their own way.
Keep an eye on teens because there’s a chance that losing a loved one might cause them to sink into depression, especially if they were very close. Know the signs of teen depression and don’t hesitate to ask for help if necessary.
Give them a chance to participate in the funeral rituals.
There are different ways kids can be involved in funerals such as picking out flowers, songs or photos. Older kids and teens can share poems or say a few words about the loved one. Taking part in the funeral gives them a sense of control over the loss and is a great way to get closure.
Take care of yourself.
Your kids are always learning from you so ensure you model proper self-care during this difficult time. Reach out to your friends and family for help and also take time to be by yourself to process everything you’re feeling. Remember, kids need consistency so try as much as possible to resume your usual routine after a suitable mourning period has passed. Getting back to the normalcy of daily living does wonders for a grieving soul.
Losing a loved one and dealing with the ensuing feelings of grief and loss is never easy. However, it is possible to get through it together as a family.
Tyler enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative designs. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on:Twitter | LinkedIn
I am always thankful to have Tyler Jacobson write for my blog because he covers a topic that I am not yet familiar with: teenagers.
Check out his other on-point articles about parenting tweens and teens: