When my father-in-law left us for his heavenly abode six years ago, my then 6-year-old
daughter was inconsolable. It was difficult for us to answer her question ‘where has grandpa
gone?’. We simply told her that he would be living with God. But, her questions didn’t end.
Gradually, his absence made her realize that her grandfather wouldn’t be there anymore to
play with her and pamper her.
Death is one of the most tragic events in life that even adults find difficult to deal with. It is
only natural that children need handholding with tender love and care when it comes to this
stage of life.
Death is a very complex topic but you have to find a way to talk to your children about it.
Here are some ways to do this:
1. Don’t Delay the Conversation
The talk about the death of a loved one could become more challenging if your children find
it out by accident or from someone else. Hence, it is advisable that you are the first person
to tell them. It would be extremely difficult for them to see the reality, but your avoidance to tell
them about it will hurt them more.
2. Explain the Concept of Death
Be honest and direct about explaining what death is. If your children are too young to
understand, give them an example of a butterfly, plant or fruit that dies. Then, you can
explain that when a person dies, his or her body stops working, s/he can’t breathe and s/he
no longer lives with us.
3. Let Them Say Goodbye
You want to protect your children from sadness and grief by not allowing them to
participate in the death rituals or attend the funeral. However, your children need to be
aware of what has happened and come to terms with it. So, let them bid a final goodbye to
their loved one.
4. Channel Their Emotions
If your children have stopped talking or getting aggressive about the loss of the loved one,
you can direct their emotions in some engaging activity like art and craft, martial arts, etc.
5. Avoid These Words
While it could be tricky to explain to children about death and tell white lies, it is not the
right way to deal with the issue. State the truth as it is most gently. Avoid words such as
‘God needed him by his side’, ‘she went to long sleep’, ‘be brave’, ‘don’t cry’, etc.
The best way to help children understand death is to be straightforward and avoid dodging
their questions. Give them (and yourself) time to manage the feelings.