How Do You Explain Death to Children?
Death is quite a difficult subject to discuss and explain, especially when it comes time to talk to children about it. For example, when a death occurs in the family, telling your children about it can be both complex and painful, especially if you feel overwhelmed by the emotion yourself. Here are a few tips prepared by Crématorium Montréal to explain the concept of death to children, with tact and delicacy.
Finding the right words so as not to worry your children
Sometimes it can be tempting not to use certain words when it comes time to talk to your children about death. However, it is recommended instead that death be explained in language that is easy to understand and in the right words. Comparisons that may frighten children should be avoided at all costs. For example, by telling them that Grandma has fallen asleep, children may be afraid that they will fall asleep and never wake up. Comparing death to a long trip should also be avoided, as the children may have hopes that the deceased loved one will come back, or may become nervous about another loved one going on a trip. If the deceased person was very ill, it should be emphasized that the illness they had was incurable. Because otherwise children could become anxious at the thought of having a cold, as they don’t yet know the types of illnesses and their actual consequences. Just use the real word and say that Grandpa had cancer or that he had been infected with COVID and that no medication or treatment could have saved him.
Reading to help make it more understandable
Reading to your children often helps to find the right words to explain various situations in life. There are many books adapted to your children’s age and these will give you a chance to stop for a moment to discuss death, through words and illustrations adapted to your children’s level of understanding. When reading, be reassuring and encourage your children to express their emotions. Even if your children are very young, they will be able to try to express themselves in their own words, which will do them a lot of good. There are many available books that can help you simplify the concept of death in clear and concrete terms. You may consult the list prepared by Naitre et grandir on their website (under Le deuil) for some suggestions adapted to children, or consult your local bookstore or library, where the staff will be pleased to advise you.
Keep the memory alive
To make sure your young children don’t forget the person who died, various rituals can be put in place. Hang up a picture of the deceased, surrounded by your family, to keep your lost loved one close at hand. Consider creating a keepsake box in which your children can keep objects or photos that remind them of the deceased. Bring back memories of taste by cooking one of Grandma’s recipes or listening to her favourite music. These are simple ways for your children to remember the deceased on a daily basis. You could also plant a tree in memory of your lost loved one, or do a special activity on the day of that person’s death. This activity could be related to the deceased’s passions, or you could cook a meal that your lost loved one enjoyed.
Your children will probably have many questions and you may have to repeat certain things that may be very abstract for them. What’s important is that you do it gently and, above all, not prevent yourself from becoming emotional. In this way, your children will learn to express their own feelings and realize that it is normal to cry, feel grief or anger. If you need support, don’t hesitate to contact the team at Crématorium Montréal, where we will support you through these difficult times with compassion and empathy.