How to Help Children Through Grief and Loss

a sunset behind some tall grass

Contact our Certified Child Life Specialist

For the timeliest response, please send an email to:
Jaynie R. Wood MS CCLS -
jwood@sbch.org
Mon - Thurs 7am - 5:30pm
(805) 682-7111 x55390

Talking with children about the subject of death and dying is often an overwhelming task, and it is very personal to each and every family.

As difficult as this might seem, helping children learn about the process of grief and having that discussion with someone they trust can be such a gift to a child. This is a journey that the family is going on together and the information that is provided is a way to help begin that journey together.

How to Talk About Death

When talking to children about the concept of death and dying, know that every situation is different and every family structure is unique.

Helping children through grief or bereavement can be emotionally challenging for everyone involved. The tools provided in this booklet are there to assist and give guidance.

Starting the ConversationA mother embracing a grieving son

Common Questions Kids Ask About Death

There are five subconcepts about death that are represented by children’s questions. They are: universality, irreversibility, non-functionality, causality and continued life form. Being aware of the types of questions that children may ask can help parents or caregivers feel more prepared to respond when unanticipated questions arise. Download the full PDF to see the types of questions linked to each subconcept.

Behaviors You May See

How a child and family grieve and cope with a death is greatly influenced by their culture, faith or religious preference, previous experience with grief, the child’s age and current development, and most importantly, how the family as a whole approaches the subject.

Younger children may believe that wishful thinking or good behavior can bring their loved ones back. Other children may feel some form of responsibility and need help understanding that there is nothing they could have done to change the outcome. You may have a child be direct and ask, “Do they see when they are dead? Can they come back to life? Do all people die?” Children often do not have the same verbal filter that adults have, and they ask what they are feeling. They speak the truth. Click here to see further examples.

Developmental Concepts and Resources

The following links contain useful outlines and a list of resources for what your child might believe, how they may respond, and ideas to help them through their grief.

Download the Full Guide

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Download the complete guide on How to Help Children Through Grief and Loss for information on how to help children cope with the difficult concepts around the death of a loved one.

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