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By unknown | Oct 07, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

When a loved one dies it can be difficult to know how to help children cope with the loss, particularly while you are working through your own grief.

When a loved one dies it can be difficult to know how to help children cope with the loss, particularly while you are working through your own grief.

How much children understand about death depends on age, life experiences and personality. Here are some important points to remember in all cases.

Explain death in a child's terms.Be honest and encourage questions. This can be hard because you might not have all the answers. But it's important to create an atmosphere of comfort and to send the message that there's no right or wrong way to feel.

Share your spiritual beliefs about death. A child's capacity to understand death and your approach to discussing it will vary according to age.

Each child is unique but here are some guidelines. Until about five or six years, children's view of the world is very literal. So explain death in basic and concrete terms.

If the person was ill or elderly, explain that the person's body wasn't working anymore and the doctors couldn't fix it. If someone dies suddenly, as in an accident, explain that the event caused the body to stop working. Explain that "dying" or "dead" means that the body stopped working.

Young children have a hard time understanding that all people and living things eventually die, that it's final and they won't come back. So even after you've explained, they might continue asking the same questions.

Calmly reiterate that the person can't come back. Avoid saying that the loved one "went away" or "went to sleep" or that you "lost" the person. Young children might become afraid to sleep or fearful when someone goes away.

Children's questions might sound deeper than they actually are. For example, a five year old who asks where someone who died is now isn't asking about an afterlife.

Children might be satisfied to hear that someone who died is in the cemetery. This might be the time to share your beliefs in an afterlife or heaven if that is your belief.

From ages six to 10 they start to grasp the finality of death. A nine-year-old might think that by behaving or making a wish, grandma won't die.

Often children this age personify death and think of it as the "boogeyman" or a ghost or a skeleton. They deal best with death when given accurate, simple, clear and honest explanations about the event.

As teen's understanding about death evolves, questions might naturally come up about mortality and vulnerability. For example, if a 16-year-old's friend dies in a car accident, a teen might not want to get behind the wheel or even ride in a car for awhile. - Kids Health


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