Loss, Grief, And Coping: How To Help Children Cope With Death

May 13, 2015


By: Jessica Kane | Edited by: Anna Agoncillo



Coping with a sudden loss is a life-altering event especially for a child. Each child copes with grief in different ways. Children aged 5 or 6 have a more literal view of the world and death. It can be confusing to them if not explained in straightforward terms.

Children between the ages of 6 and 10 tend to understand the finality of death but do not understand that it affects everyone equally. As children enter their teenage years, they begin to understand that death is something that happens to everyone. Questions about mortality and vulnerability tend to arise. Regardless of age, helping anyone cope with death is a delicate dance.

Mourning the Loss 

It can be challenging for parents to care for their children experiencing the same loss. Listening is very important. They might have questions, and as an adult you have to answer them simply and truthfully.

Parents often avoid talking about their loss to their children because of the fear of upsetting them and vice versa. This is why parents must take an initiative to let their child know that they are not alone in this troubled times. Bring your child to a quiet place and let him or her know that it is okay to express their feelings and thoughts.

Consider the child’s age, competency and vulnerability. It is important to explain death to the bereaved child in an age-appropriate way. To a young child, you may have to explain the process of burial or cremation or what happens after death.

Avoid euphemisms, as they tend to confuse the child more. For instance, if you tell a child “they went away” or “they went to sleep, the child might associate death with any person who disappears for a while…be it a trip or just going to work, or might fear going to sleep thinking he won’t wake up again.

You will need to understand that when a child acts out, it is a way for them to take control over a situation for which they have little or no control over. However, you must make it very clear to them that such behavior is not acceptable and help them find creative ways to express themselves. 

Children often find great comfort in routines, so try to keep your child’s life as normal as possible. Here are other ways to help your child cope with grief

1. BE HONEST

Be open about your own feelings. Your reaction will influence how your child behaves. Grieving openly tells your child it's normal and okay for her to express grief.

2. COMFORT THEM

A grieving child may need more physical comforting than usual. Take time to shower your child with hugs. 

3. EASE YOUR CHILD'S FEARS

The death of a loved one can profoundly affect a child's sense of security. A young child may worry that other people close to them may also die. Or, that he or she caused the loved one’s death in some way. Ease this fears through reassurance. 

4. ENCOURAGE POSITIVE MEMORIES

Planting a tree, lighting a candle, attending a memorial, or collecting a keepsake are just some of the ways a child can take part in saying farewell to a loved one.

5. GET HELP

Finding a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Guidance Counselor, or Support groups could help the children manage their grief. Helping children to cope with death requires a collaborative effort to understand the child’s emotional and cognitive development. During this grieving process, children will need support of their teachers and parents.

Parting Thoughts

Children often feel vulnerable and alone in their grief, faced with the unknown and terrified by it. Their fears and anxieties need to be addressed. Let them know they are cared for and help them when they are feeling overwhelmed. 

Image Credits: Therapy and Counseling Free Photos via Flickr
Parents should be more attentive and engaged with their children to aid in the grieving process and to communicate effectively. Children can improve their lives when they are able to grieve naturally with the help of their parent’s support, validation, and encouragement. 

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Legacy Headstones, a leading Ohio-based headstone manufacturer and vendor.

Read the previous posts: Is Self-Efficacy Inborn?The Ripple Effect: Everything Is Interconnected


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