Talking with Children About Death


  1. Approach the discussion gently and lovingly in a voice that is warm, sympathetic, and kind.HOW you say it is more important than WHAT you say.


  2. Be authentic; be yourself.If you’re sad let it show.We don’t need to hide things or bottle up our feelings.Someone is gone, and we feel bad because we care.Tears are okay, a natural thing (as long as we don’t fall apart or get hysterical).It frightens children to see an adult out of control.We can cry gently in our sadness and grief and be authentic.


  3. Be realistic about grief; death hurts.It leaves a big hole in our lives when that person is gone.We are going to have our ups and downs.It’s okay to feel sad and mad that they have left us.


  4. When you are talking with your child initially, pause from time to time to let them express their thoughts.Observe and evaluate how they are taking it (from their nonverbal behavior).Watch for their nonverbal response in the next few days or months.


  5. Respect your child’s response-each of us over time needs to find our own way.Let them vent the emotions of grief.It is okay to express tears, anger over the dead leaving us, the unfairness of it all.Guilt, denial, despair, and protest are normal parts of the grief process.


  6. Be prepared to repeat the explanation; death is a hard message to hear.Denial and numbness get in the way of hearing.


  7. Let your child know they will have questions and confusion about the death.We want them to come to you with feelings or things they need to talk about.We can talk about things that hurt.


  8. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know why.Death has much confusion for adults too.It is part of the mystery of life, and we have to deal with it the best way we know how.


  9. Pull together as a family for support.“We are together, and we will come through this time together.”


  10. Realize that grief is a process, and it takes a long time to get through healthily (approximately six months to two years).It has its ups and downs, good times and bad.We can expect this, but eventually we do “heal.”


  11. Give your child the feeling that life will continue, that those who are gone will be remembered, that they will live in our hearts, that eventually (while things will be changed and different), we will go on.Give reassurance and hope.


  12. Children need simple, direct, honest information.They need time to work through their grief.They need reassurance, understanding, comfort, and support.


Tell students about death in your own way-in keeping with your value system.  There is no one right way to approach the subject.