Talk with a child in language he or she can understand. Complex medical terms are less effective than simple language describing the illness or circumstances surrounding the death. Use language that reflects what the child can see, hear, touch, and feel.
Try to confirm that the child understands what you have said. Let the child explain back to you how he or she comprehends what has happened. Then help clarify any areas of confusion or misunderstanding that still exist.
Allow time for a child to express his or her feelings and other grief reactions. Many grief reactions are typically associated with a serious illness or death in the family. These reactions can and should be shared among family members. Very young children may not have words for their grief. As a result, they may express their grief through drawings, behavior, or other means.
Encourage children to ask questions and be prepared to give honest, simple answers. Listen carefully to a child’s questions and try to understand what is being asked, as well as what is not being asked.
As an adult, be a good observer. Look and see how each child is behaving. Don’t rush in with explanations. Usually, it’s more helpful to ask exploring questions than to give quick answers.
Help the child commemorate the life of the person that has died. Sharing memories will help to facilitate healthy grieving. Creative writing, telling stories, planting the loved one’s favorite flowers, and other activities provide healthy outlets for grief and can be ways to maintain happy memories.