Guiding The Child Through Death and Grief
Sister Teresa M. McIntier R.N., M.S.
The best time to discuss death with the child is when she asks about it. The following guidelines may be helpful in dealing with children when death has touched their lives.
- It is more helpful to discuss death with a child before a crisis occurs.
- Explain in advance about the funeral rituals and give the child the option to attend or stay away.
- If the child asks to view the body prepare her for how the deceased will look and feel.
- Listen to what the child has to say about the experience
- Allow the child to become involved in visitation, funeral service and interment if she so wishes. Always prepare the child for what she can expect: behavior of attendees, length of service, etc…
- It may be helpful to have a caring adult that the child knows available in the event that the child wants or need to leave during the service.
- Answer the child’s questions candidly and rationally or felt the child you don’t know but will try to find the answer.
- Recognize the stages of the grief process and allow the child to walk through them at her own pace, children’s grief is often different from the grief of adult’s.
- Respond with loving compassion to the child’s feelings of anger, frustration and hostility.
- Allow time for grieving and realize that the child movies in and out of the process.
- Share your own feelings of loss and grief with the child allowing them to observe your behaviors such as weeping gives the child permission to do the same.