Parent Tip Sheet and Resources on Grief
Parent Tip Sheet and Resources
How to talk with your child about death
It is important to talk with your child about the death of his/her classmate and to listen to your child’s concerns.
When speaking about the death, use correct terms such as “death” or “died” instead of vague terms such as “lost,” “passed away,” or “gone.”
It is helpful to discuss the following 4 basic concepts about death:
- Death is irreversible. This concept helps children understand that death is permanent.
- All life functions end completely at the time of death. This concept helps children to understand that their classmate is no longer in pain.
- Everything that is alive eventually dies. This concept helps children understand death instead of having misconceptions that their classmate did something wrong.
- There are physical reasons someone dies. This concept helps children understand the real reason someone dies and prevents them from coming up with explanations that can cause guilt or shame.
Grief is a process; thus, be sure to check in frequently with your child to see how he/she is coping.
How to talk with your child about the funeral, visitation and memorial service:
It is important that children have the opportunity to attend services, regardless of their age. Prior to attending the service, it is helpful to provide your child with an understanding of what to expect. For example, explain what is going to happen at the service, who will be at the service, where and when the service will take place, and the purpose of the service. Be sure to answer your child’s questions as openly and honestly as you can.
Invite your child to attend; you should avoid forcing your child to attend, and instead, let your child make the decision as to whether or not he/she will attend.
Attend the service with your child. If you absolutely cannot attend, find another adult to be with your child. At the service, allow your child the opportunity to make decisions about where he/she would like to sit, how long he/she would like to stay, whether they want to get in line to walk by the casket, etc.
Check in with your child after the service. Offer comfort and love. Ask your child what he/she thought of the service, and if he/she has thoughts or feelings he/she would like to discuss.
Children’s Grief Education Association: www.childgrief.org The National Center for Grieving Children & Families (Dougy Center): www.dougy.org National Alliance For Grieving Children: www.childrengrieve.org; National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https:/www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org