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When a loved one dies, it can be difficult to know how to help kids cope with the loss, particularly as you work through your own grief. Childhood and Grief A child's ability to understand death varies according to his or her age. Younger children might have trouble understanding the permanence of death or differentiating between fantasy and reality. Older children are beginning to understand the permanence of death, and might associate it with old age or personify it in terms of frightening images or a cartoonish boogeyman.
Teenagers process grief more like adults, experiencing anger and sadness as they begin to cope. If your child doesn't understand what death means, try explaining it in terms of the body, such as "Aunt Rachel's body stopped working".
If your family holds particular religious beliefs about what happens after you die, you can share them with your child as a source of comfort (but don't introduce it too soon, as it might be too abstract for kids under age 5). If your child seems to be struggling especially hard with a loss, or if grief is seriously interfering with their day-to-day activities, routines, and outlook on life, don't be afraid to seek professional help or therapy when it's needed.
Helpful Resources The following links provide more detailed information on a variety of topics related to helping children and teens cope with loss. When Families Grieve™ This guide was created by Sesame Workshop, the educational organization behind Sesame Street.



More Advice Here you'll find a Huffington Post article by Judith Acosta containing advice and guidance from her book Verbal First Aid, which counsels parents on ways to help kids heal from fear and pain in a variety of situations, including the death of a loved one.
By being open and honest, encouraging communication, and sharing your own feelings, you and your children cope with painful times and begin your healing journey together. They also might believe the death of a loved one is a form of punishment for something the child did.
Don't feel disappointed if it seems that they may want to talk more to their friends than to parents, this is normal and can help them to share their feelings and heal.
While it might seem gentler to use phrases like "passed away" or "went to sleep", this can be confusing for a child and lead to difficulty understanding the finality of death. Young children often experience periods of normalcy which interrupt their intense grief, and the alternating periods might shift over the course of hours, days, or even years.
Whether it's an irrational fear linked to the cause of death, a fear of losing you or another family member, or a fear that something they did caused the death to happen, spend time comforting your children and helping to assuage their fears. An alternate approach is to let them decide for themselves, by saying something like, "No one knows for sure. Let them know that you're okay, and find comfort together by sharing your feelings and remembering the loved one who is gone. It explores children's understanding of death and offers information about communicating, ideas for coping together, and ways to move forward with your children after a loss.


These easy-to-read stories can open up a meaningful discussion between you and your child, and help children make sense of their feelings and understand what they're experiencing. If you find the advice in the article helpful, you may want to read her book for even more insight.
When you talk to young children about death, make sure to use concrete language, avoid euphemisms, and reassure the child that the death is not a consequence of something he or she did. It's important to answer their questions to the best of your ability, and provide as much specific, factual information as possible. Because their grief is similar to that of an adult, a teenager may take longer to recover from a loss than a younger child.
Some people think you go to heaven, while others believe people come back on earth as different creatures.
Try to keep them to regular routines, and give them opportunities for the constructive venting of feelings and grief. Questions may come up about mortality and vulnerability, and your role is to empathize with them, listen to their concerns, and remind them that their feelings are normal and things will get better with time.



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