Explaining death to children may not be as easy to manage as you think. This question comes up when you lose a dear one and you don’t know how to describe it to your child.
“Mom where is grandma?”
“Where did my cat go?”
There will come a time when you'll have to answer to those questions.
How to do it?
Down below you will find some tips idea on how to face this unfortunate but inevitable circumstance.
But first i want to say thank you to my therapist friend Claudia who give me some ideas to write this blog post.
(it's intended that these are only my personal ideas about what i think about, it's not medical advices).
Explaining death to children
The loss of someone dear, being a relative or a pet, can be overwhelming, especially to children.
“How to tell my daughter that her cat Renè has died in a tragic accident?” - this what Sophie’s mother asked herself in this blog article (If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you to do it, you'll find a really sweet idea to make this tragic loss a little less traumatic for your child)
In our culture, talking openly about death is nearly a taboo. More often than not, it’s adults that censor this topic, mostly around children.
This is not necessarily helpful to children, who need to understand this concept and accept it as natural.
But let’s get to the topic at hand: If you lose a dear one how to properly explain the situation to your child?
The first thing to do is to not lie to him, like: “Grandpa wil be gone for a while but he will be back”.
Trying to avoid your child’s direct questions will worsen the situation.
Let’s be honest, children are clever and they understand when adults try to elude a topic or lie to them.
We tell our children not to lie but we’re the first to do it, so let's stop being hypocritical and be honest with them.
It can be useful, instead, trying not to be so direct, for example:
“We’ll not see Grandpa anymore now, but he will always be with us in our memories even if you’ll not be able to physically see him.”
Using stories and fairy tales to talk about death
It can be useful to tell a story to your child.
If you want to approach the topic in a sweeter and subtle way you can consider telling a little story.
Do you want an example? Sophie’s grandma writes a loving and sweet letter to her in behalf of her cat Renè.
I’ll suggest you to read it and take inspiration from it.
Children, especially young ones, are used to fairytales and they’ll make the situation less of a burden.
It can also be useful to introduce small habits and have a daily routine that your child may have to alleviate the loss.
For example telling them that his beloved grandpa became a star and every night, if he’ll leave him cookies, grandpa will eat them.
Death anxiety in children
There are cases where children are terrified of death. I mean who isn't?
Everyone is scared of it and that’s why we don't talk openly about this specific topic.
But you can't avoid confronting loss face-to-face.
I want to give you a tip: your emotions about death affect much more than your words.
If your child is very young, try to contain your feeling around him as much as you can because it can help make the situation less traumatic as possible for him.
If your child is surrounded by negative feelings it'll be useless to try to explain the situation to him, because he will always associate death to your negative feelings.
Despair will prevail over comforting words.
so be careful on how your children will perceive you and your emotions in this delicate moments.
This does not mean completely conceal your suffering, but to manifest it with as much tact as possible around them. Do not let them lose hope, clear communication is the key factor to face this topic.
The most important thing to teach them i think is to honor the deceased
Honor them is the only way to let them live in your and your child’s heart and remembrance.
To honor them you can use words, emotions, routine..
In the case of honoring pets, gifting a portrait on canvas of your deceased animal can surely help make the situation a little lighter.
To help keep your child’s memories of your pets, send me a picture of your dear animal and I will make a portrait on canvas surrounded by beautiful flowers to help remember all those happy moments spent with them.