Helping Kids Understand And Process Loss

The death of a loved one is a difficult experience for anyone. It’s even more so when it happens to a child, and their world has to adjust to the loss. 

We often try to protect our kids from feeling pain by telling them that someone will always be watching over them from heaven or that they’re in a better place now, but this isn’t always helpful. 

As adults, we have the advantage of knowing what death means and how it works; however, children don’t have this knowledge yet and sometimes adults don’t either! 

That’s why it’s important for parents to take the time to explain loss and mourning in terms that make sense to their children so they can process these feelings appropriately.

How to grieve with your children after the loss of your child
Supporting children through grief requires creating a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable expressing their emotions.
There are many practical ways to help children cope with the loss of a loved one, from validating their feelings to encouraging them to express themselves.
Having a support system during times of grief and loss can provide comfort and understanding, and help us navigate the grieving process.
Understanding the stages of grief can help us better support those who are grieving and provide them with the comfort they need.
Building and maintaining a support network during times of grief can provide a powerful source of comfort and understanding.

Help Them Understand What Death Means

Your child’s first experience with death may be the death of someone they know. This can be a difficult concept for a child to understand, but it’s important that you help them process their feelings as well as possible.

As a parent, you can help your children understand what death means in terms of the body and its functions. 

It’s best to explain that our bodies are like machines that stop working sometimes — they get old and worn out, but they still have many good years left in them before they finally break down completely. 

Your child should be aware that some people die when their bodies stop working (if this is the case), while others pass on before then because of old age or illness (if this is the case).

When supporting children through grief, it’s important to create a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable expressing their emotions. Learn more about how to support your child through grief by checking out our guide for parents.” – Supporting Children Through Grief: A Guide for Parents

Don’t Lie To Them

Don’t lie to them. This is a tough one, but it’s important. Don’t ever say that their loved one lived in heaven or was happy in heaven if you know that is not true. 

Some people find comfort in the idea of reuniting with lost loved ones after death, but this isn’t something a child should be told unless they specifically ask about it themselves.

Don’t tell your kids not to cry or get sad about what happened if they don’t seem sad enough! It’s okay for them to be upset at first even though they may seem okay when they’re around you and other adults.

If someone asks how much you are hurting right now, give an honest answer (just like when someone asks if you want a hug). 

You don’t have to show off how much pain you’re feeling or share every detail, but saying something like “I’m okay” won’t help anyone.

Don’t Lie To ThemExplanation
Children prefer honest answers even if it is difficult.If a child asks a question about what happened or what will happen, it is important to be truthful with them.
Honesty builds trust.Lying to a child could result in a loss of trust, causing further emotional issues down the road.
Use age-appropriate language when explaining death.While being truthful is important, it is also important to use friendly language that is appropriate for the child’s age.

Talk About Your Own Feelings

It is important to talk about your feelings with your child. This gives them an idea of what the loss means to you so they can understand and process the situation better. 

You can’t help them if you don’t know how you feel, so it’s ok to talk about your own feelings. Expressing yourself honestly will also be helpful for both of you as it allows them to see that it is okay for them to express their thoughts and feelings regarding the loss as well.

Helping a child cope with the loss of a loved one can be challenging, but there are many ways to offer support. From validating their feelings to encouraging them to express themselves, our guide on 10 Ways to Help Your Child Cope with the Loss of a Loved One provides practical tips on how to be there for your child during this difficult time.” – 10 Ways to Help Your Child Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

Don’t Try To Control Their Feelings

As a parent, it can be hard to let your child go through their own emotions. We want our kids to feel better as soon as possible, especially when they are upset. But remember that you cannot control how another person feels or what they think. 

When we try to tell our kids how they should feel, we are doing more harm than good because it makes them feel like their feelings aren’t valid and that we don’t care about what they’re going through. It also gives them the message that feeling sad is wrong or bad and should be avoided at all costs which isn’t true!

Instead of trying to control their feelings, allow your child to share with you how he or she feels about the loss in his or her own words without judgment from you or anyone else around him/her (such as siblings). 

Your role is simply one of support: listen without interrupting unless there’s an immediate safety concern; validate his/her feelings by saying things like “I know this must hurt” instead of “I understand”; and offer comfort by giving hugs if he/she wants them but don’t force yourself upon him/her if he/she doesn’t want one right away; always respect boundaries!

Don’t Try To Control Their FeelingsExplanation
Allow children to express their emotions.When children experience loss, it is important to let them feel the emotions that come with it.
Grief is a natural process, and everyone experiences it differently.It is important to understand that children may show their grief differently than adults.
Respecting the child’s feelings can lead to greater emotional growth.By allowing children to have their own feelings and to express them, they become more self-aware and emotionally mature.

Let Them Participate In Rituals, But Don’t Force It On Them

There are a lot of ways to help kids understand and process loss. Letting them participate in rituals, like making something for the person who died or writing letters to them, is one good way. 

Of course, it’s nice if they want to do that and you should never force any child into doing anything they don’t want to do but if they don’t want to participate in rituals with you and your family (or on their own), that’s okay too! 

You can still let them know that these things are important for everyone else involved with the mourning process and encourage them to do it on their own time when they feel ready.

Having a support system during times of grief and loss can make all the difference. Check out our article on the importance of a support system to learn more about the benefits of having friends, family, and community by your side during difficult times.” – Grief and Loss: The Importance of Having a Support System

Be A Safe Space For Them To Talk About Death Or Loss

While you can’t always help your kids understand why a loved one has died, you can help them process their feelings and cope with the loss.

Being a safe space for children to talk about death or loss is critical. It’s important that children feel free to express how they feel about what happened, rather than bottling up their emotions out of fear that they will upset you or make things worse. 

You should also model healthy coping skills when talking about the death or loss at home for instance, if your child asks “Why did my grandmother die?” instead of giving an answer like “She was old,” try saying something like “We don’t know exactly why she died but sometimes older people pass away because their bodies are tired and worn out from living so long.”

Encourage Questions

As a parent, it’s important that you encourage your child to ask questions about the loss of someone they love. Be patient with your kids and don’t be afraid to ask questions yourself; many times it may be unclear what they are trying to say or how they are feeling. 

Encourage them by saying things like: ‘I’m sorry that happened’ or ‘Can we talk about it some more?’ And if your child doesn’t have any questions at all, let them know that’s okay too!

Talk To Them About The Afterlife If You Believe In One

Whatever you believe about the afterlife, it’s important to talk to your children about it. They might have questions and may feel safe expressing their fears with you.

If you don’t know what happens after someone dies, let them know that we don’t know either. If the person was a good friend or family member, tell them how much they will be missed by those who knew and loved him/her best.

Having a support system during times of grief and loss can make all the difference. Check out our article on the importance of a support system to learn more about the benefits of having friends, family, and community by your side during difficult times.” – Grief and Loss: The Importance of Having a Support System

Stop And Listen During The Process

  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Don’t rush them through the process.

Don’t tell them to get over it, or that they need to move on. This will only make them feel worse and more isolated, since you are telling them that what they are experiencing is wrong or unnatural. 

It’s also important not to tell them what they should do (e.g., “you should be happy right now”) because it makes their feelings seem invalid and disagreeable with your own ideas of how things should be in life and death situations like these ones!

Stop And Listen During The ProcessExplanation
Give your child space to express their feelings.Sometimes during the grieving process, a child may need some time and space to process their thoughts and emotions.
Listen actively and try not to interrupt.When a child tells you what they are going through, it is important to listen carefully and with empathy. Try not to interrupt or correct them.
Offer comfort and reassurance.After listening, offer comfort, love and show that you are there to support them now and in the future.

Encourage Kindness And Empathy Towards Others Who Have Experienced A Similar Loss

When you’re encouraging your child to be kind and empathetic, it may seem like a good idea to have them spend time with a child who has suffered the same loss. 

While this is certainly beneficial, it can also be emotionally overwhelming for children who are just beginning to process their feelings about the loss. 

In many cases, they are not yet able to understand or express how they feel. Instead of sending them off with someone else who has experienced a similar loss, try having your kids talk with professionals or other adults that can help them navigate their emotions. 

This ensures that your kids don’t become overburdened by trying to deal with their feelings alone and allows them an outlet for sharing those feelings in safe environments where they won’t feel overwhelmed by everyone else around them.

Understanding the stages of grief can help us better navigate the grieving process and provide support to those who are grieving. Learn more about the five stages of grief in our article, Understanding and Coping with Loss.” – The 5 Stages of Grief: Understanding and Coping with Loss

Use Sensory Play As A Way To Express Emotion Without Words

Sensory play is a great way to help children learn about their emotions and express them through play. Sensory activities can be very calming, especially if kids are having a hard time processing their feelings.

For example, if your child is grieving the loss of a pet or person they love, you might try making homemade dough with them. 

While working with the dough together, you can say things like “This feels really soft” or “I think this will make our shapes look pretty good together!” 

You can also use some gentle tickling and jokes to lighten up the mood in order to make it easier for your child to express themselves through play rather than words.

Here are some other suggestions for sensory activities:

During times of grief, having a support system can provide comfort and understanding. Check out our article on the power of a support system during times of grief to learn more about the benefits of building and maintaining a support network.” – The Power of a Support System During Times of Grief


While it can be difficult to know how to talk to your kid about death and loss, we hope this article has given you some ideas on how to do so. 

Remember that it’s okay if your child doesn’t understand everything at first; they’re still going through a process of learning. 

You can help them by listening, keeping the conversations open and encouraging them to ask questions. 

If you find yourself struggling with this subject matter yourself, have compassion for yourself as well; don’t forget that being there for your child is what counts!

Further Reading

Helping Children Deal with Grief: This article provides tips on how to help children deal with grief and loss, including advice on how to talk to them about death, how to validate their feelings, and how to offer support and comfort during the grieving process.

Helping Children Cope with Grief: This guide offers a comprehensive overview of how to help children cope with grief, including information on how to identify signs of grief, how to talk to children about death and loss, and how to support them through the grieving process.


What is grief and how does it affect children?

Grief is a natural emotional response to loss, and it can affect children in a variety of ways. Children may experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, guilt, and anxiety. They may also exhibit physical symptoms, such as changes in appetite or sleep patterns. It’s important to be aware of these signs and offer support and comfort to help children cope with their grief.

How can I help my child cope with grief?

There are many ways to help a child cope with grief, including creating a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable expressing their emotions, offering validation and comfort, and providing opportunities for them to engage in healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise or art therapy.

How can I talk to my child about death and loss?

When talking to a child about death and loss, it’s important to be honest and clear, while also being age-appropriate and sensitive to their emotional needs. It can be helpful to use concrete examples and provide reassurance and comfort, while also acknowledging that it’s okay to feel sad or upset.