How To Talk To Your Child About Death And Grief

Children are curious about death and the grieving process. They’ll ask you questions, and their questions are an important part of the healing process. It’s natural for parents to want to protect their children from feelings like fear, sadness, or guilt during this difficult time. 

But it’s also important that they understand what happened and how they can cope with the loss of someone they love.

Speaking frankly with your child about death doesn’t mean being graphic or sharing too much information. 

It just means being honest about what happened in terms of both physical aspects (like what happens when a body decomposes) as well as emotional aspects (like how people feel when someone dies). 

Your child will remember every word you say for years – even decades – so choose them wisely!

Kids Share Their Grief Experiences
Talking to children about death and grief can be challenging, but it’s important to approach the conversation with honesty and sensitivity, using age-appropriate language and explanations.
Providing comfort and support to children through the grieving process can involve a range of strategies, such as encouraging them to express their emotions, maintaining routines and structure, and seeking professional help if needed.
There are various resources available for parents and children dealing with grief and loss, including support groups, counseling services, books, and online resources, and school or community-based programs.
It’s important to find resources that are age-appropriate and tailored to your child’s needs, and to remember that you are not alone in supporting your child through their grief.

Allow Your Child To Ask Questions

Use open-ended questions to get your child talking. For example, ask your child what they are thinking, what they want to know or what they think about death.

If you have a question of your own, it’s okay to ask it   but don’t make the conversation all about you. 

Let your child do most of the talking.

Ask follow-up questions and show interest in their answers (e.g., “That’s interesting,” or “Tell me more”). This is important for two reasons: It helps build comfort with sharing their feelings with you; and it lets them know that what they’re experiencing is normal — there’s nothing wrong with how they’re feeling!

Avoid asking questions that lead children into specific answers (e.g., “Are you sad?”). The point here isn’t for them to share all of their feelings; rather, we want them talking so that we can understand what those feelings might be at different times throughout this process (and beyond).

When a child is grieving, it’s important to provide them with comfort and support. Our guide on supporting children through grief provides helpful tips for parents on how to address their child’s emotions and provide them with the support they need.” – Supporting Children Through Grief: A Guide for Parents

Be Truthful

Be truthful. When talking to your child about death, it’s important to be honest and open about the situation. Don’t make up stories or lie if you can avoid it. 

If a family member has died, say that they are dead and not “in Heaven.” Children may not understand the concept of Heaven or Hell yet, but they will have heard those terms before and by using them as euphemisms for death, you’re only making things more confusing for them (and yourself).

Don’t hide the truth from your child in an attempt to protect them from pain; instead, prepare them for what they’ll experience when they lose a loved one themselves someday by explaining how natural grief feels and how people react when someone dies. 

This will help them process their feelings when it happens without being scared or confused by unfamiliar emotions.

Don’t say that someone is better off dead if he/she isn’t likewise, don’t claim death is good news because everyone dies eventually or because there’ll be no more suffering after death!

Be honest with your child about what happened in a clear and age-appropriate manner.Don’t make up stories or use euphemisms to avoid telling the truth.
Use simple language to help them understand what death means.Don’t use complicated or abstract concepts that may confuse or scare your child.
Encourage questions and answer them truthfully.Don’t dismiss or ignore their questions, even if they are difficult to answer.
Reassure your child that it is okay to feel sad or upset.Don’t invalidate their emotions by telling them not to cry or be upset.

Be Honest About Your Own Grief

As parents, we want our children to feel safe and secure. We want them to know that we will always be there for them, no matter what happens. In order to do this, we need to be honest about our own emotions. 

The best way I can think of to explain this is by using the example of being afraid of the dark: You’re lying in bed with your eyes closed when suddenly you hear a noise outside your room. Your heart starts pounding and you have an overwhelming urge to get up and check under the bed or behind the door anything that might provide some explanation for what caused that sound.

If someone came into your bedroom at that moment in their most reassuring voice and said “It’s okay; I promise it wasn’t anything scary! Just go back to sleep now,” how would it make you feel? Probably even more scared than before because now all these questions are swirling around in your head: 

What was it? How did they know there wasn’t anything scary out there? Can they see through walls? Am I going crazy?!

As a parent, it can be difficult to know how to help your child through the grieving process. Our guide on grieving with children provides valuable insights and practical tips on how to support your child through this difficult time.” – Grieving With Children: A Parent’s Guide

Don’t Use The Word “Tragedy” Or “Losing A Battle”

Don’t use the word “tragedy.” The death of someone you love is a tragedy, but it’s not something that’s happened to you. It’s not something to be ashamed of or feel guilty about.

Use the words “sad” and “grief,” rather than “depressed” or “heartbroken.” It sounds like these are things that just happen to people who aren’t quite right in the head, which is definitely not true! Grief is probably one of the most normal human experiences there is—we all have it at some point, even if it’s just because we’re sad about ending a relationship with someone else.

Instead of saying someone has lost their battle with cancer or another illness, try saying they’ve passed away instead—it sounds more dignified (and less threatening) than losing a battle does!

If your child asks what dying means/how long it will take until someone dies/what happens after they pass away…the best thing to do here depends on how old they are and how much they understand death already (and if so). 

With younger children who don’t understand yet: Keep this conversation simple by using age-appropriate language whenever possible (“Mommy went up into heaven”) while also providing facts whenever possible (for example: “People die when their bodies stop working”).

Use the person’s name or “died” to describe what happened.Avoid using phrases such as “passed away,” “gone to a better place,” or “lost a battle.”
Explain that death is a natural part of life and happens to everyone.Avoid making death seem like a punishment or something to be feared.
Use neutral language and avoid using words with negative connotations.Avoid using words such as “tragedy,” “disaster,” or “catastrophe” that may make the situation seem worse than it is.

Explain That Asking Someone If They Are Better Is Okay

Asking someone if they are better is okay. You can tell your child that it’s normal for people to ask this question, even if it seems strange. 

Explaining that the reason for asking this question is because of the way sadness works helps her understand why it’s something she might hear from time to time.

If you’re unsure about how to ask someone if they are better, here’s what you can do:

  • Ask them how they feel today or whether they’re feeling any better lately (or whatever other phrasing feels right).
  • Listen intently to their response and let them know you’re there for them if they want to talk more about what’s going on in their life right now.

Supporting a child through grief can be a daunting task, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Our guide on 15 tips for supporting your child through grief and loss offers practical advice on how to provide comfort and support during this challenging time.” – 15 Tips for Supporting Your Child Through Grief and Loss

Explain How You Can Feel Sad And Still Have Hope

When talking to your child about death and grief, it’s important to take the time to explain how it is okay to feel sad, but that it is also okay to have hope.

You can say: “I know it might seem like you can’t be happy when you’re sad, but that’s not true. I’m still going to smile and laugh with family and friends even though I’m feeling really sad right now.”

Explain that even though you are feeling very sad about what has happened, this doesn’t mean that you don’t still have hope for a better future. 

It may be hard for them at first (especially if they’re young), but over time your child will learn how to manage their feelings in healthy ways.

7 Give Them A Chance To Express Their Feelings

The best way to approach this conversation is by letting your child know that it’s okay to feel sad, and then giving them a chance to express their feelings. 

If they need a hug, give it! This can be an incredibly difficult time for your child, so give them the space they need.

“Losing a loved one is never easy, and children may need extra support to help them cope with their emotions. Our guide on supporting children through the loss of a loved one offers practical tips for parents on how to provide comfort and support during this difficult time.” – Supporting Children Through the Loss of a Loved One

Let Them See You Rejoice In Someone’s Life, Not Mourn Their Death

It’s okay to grieve and mourn, but don’t be afraid to show happiness and joy in other people once you have dealt with your own sadness enough to be able to do so. 

It can be very comforting for children who are struggling with their own sadness when they see their parents having fun or laughing. 

We may not want to go out on the town at first, but we can start by watching movies together where there is entertainment value and humor that everyone will enjoy.

Let Your Child Know It’s Okay To Talk About What Happened Again In The Future

You can also let your child know that it’s okay to talk about what they’re feeling in the future. If they ever want to talk about how they are feeling and what happened, don’t be afraid of bringing up the topic again. 

These conversations may occur at different times during the grieving process and should be allowed without pressure or guilt.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions either! Your child may still have unanswered questions about death. 

They might wonder why someone has died, or if there is life after death. Do not rush their process, but do be willing to answer all of their questions with honesty and appropriate details for their age (for example, saying “people die” vs “people stop breathing” when talking about death). 

It’s important for parents not to sugarcoat these conversations because lying is never good when it comes down to it and can result in greater confusion later on down the road.

Let your child know they can talk to you about what happened whenever they want.Don’t avoid bringing up the topic or pretend like nothing happened.
Check in with your child regularly and ask how they are feeling.Don’t pressure your child to talk about what happened when they are not ready.
Create a safe and supportive environment where your child feels comfortable expressing their feelings.Don’t judge or criticize your child’s emotions or reactions.
Consider seeking professional help if your child is struggling to cope with their grief.Don’t assume that your child will “get over it” on their own or without outside help.

Remind Them That Everyone Will Die Sometime

I find that it’s best to remind children that everyone will die sometime. Death is a part of life, so they should not be scared of it. It’s also important to explain that dying doesn’t mean that their story has ended, but rather it continues on in another form.

I recommend reminding them that everyone dies, even the animals and plants we love and care for. The only difference between us and them is the fact that our stories continue in another form after we pass away: memories, photos, videos…the list goes on!

It’s okay if they’re sad when someone dies; sadness shows a sensitivity towards others’ well-being and reflects compassion for those who lived before us as well as ourselves now living in this world together with those who came before us (and those who will come after).

Remind Them That Goodbyes Aren’t Permanent

Remind them that even though they might not be able to see the person in person, they can still talk to them.

Remind them that you can always visit the person in your heart by thinking about how much you loved each other and what memories you share.

Remind them that they can always talk to the person in their head when they miss him or her and want to say something. They might think it’s silly at first, but once they get used to doing it, it will become easier for them.

Remind them of all of the good times you had together as a family with their beloved parent or sibling; this will help remind them of what a great life he or she lived and make him or her feel happy again!


I hope this article has been helpful in your quest to help your child understand death and grief. Remember that it is okay if you don’t know all the answers and that you can always ask for help from a professional who does. 

The most important thing is to listen to what your child wants to say, let them express their feelings freely, and have faith that whatever happens next will be for the best.

Further Reading

Grief and Loss: Information for Parents and Caregivers: This article provides information and resources for parents and caregivers to help children cope with grief and loss. It covers various topics, including how to talk to children about death, how to support them through the grieving process, and when to seek professional help.

How to Talk to Your Children About the Death of a Loved One: This article provides tips and advice for parents on how to talk to their children about death and support them through the grieving process. It includes age-appropriate approaches for different age groups, common questions children may ask, and how to address their emotions.


How do I talk to my child about death and grief?

Talking to children about death and grief can be challenging, but it’s important to approach the conversation with honesty and sensitivity. Some tips for talking to children about death and grief include:

  • Using age-appropriate language and explanations
  • Allowing children to express their emotions
  • Answering their questions honestly
  • Providing comfort and support

How can I support my child through the grieving process?

Supporting a child through the grieving process can involve a range of strategies, depending on their age, personality, and emotions. Some ways to support your child through grief include:

  • Encouraging them to express their emotions
  • Providing comfort and support
  • Maintaining routines and structure
  • Seeking professional help if needed

What are some resources available for parents and children dealing with grief and loss?

There are various resources available for parents and children dealing with grief and loss, including:

  • Support groups
  • Counseling services
  • Books and online resources
  • School or community-based programs

It’s important to find resources that are age-appropriate and tailored to your child’s needs.