How can I help my child deal with a death in the family?
By John Mayer
How can I help my child deal with a death in the family? Losing a loved one is difficult on everyone in the family, but it can be especially confusing for kids who are trying to understand death for the first time. If your family has specific religious beliefs, look to its teachings to talk to your child about the loss — such as explaining that Grandma is in “a better place.” Sharing your belief system will help your child learn and cope.
If your family isn’t religious, then tell your child that while death is difficult, it’s part of the cycle of life — just like birth. Recall with him happy memories of your loved one, and tell him that even though Grandma is no longer with us, those memories will always live on. Assure him that it’s okay to talk about the family member, and encourage him to come to you with any questions he has. You should also let your child know how you are coping with the loss. This modeling is extremely helpful for children, especially when they are unsure how to process and respond to the loss.
With an open dialogue and time to adjust and heal, your child will likely come to a healthy understanding about these difficult subjects. If, however, you notice lasting changes to his “baseline behavior” after a few weeks (loss of interest in friends or activities, listlessness or a drop in grades), then consider getting an evaluation from a trained professional.