How can I help older children cope with the loss of a loved one?

Kathy Clair-Hayes
Social Work
Slightly older children who have lost a parent need to know that, despite the loss, life will continue in a safe and normal pattern—that they will be cared for. They may need reassurance that they are not to blame, as well as comfort and support. Older children also need a fuller explanation of the death.  It is best to ask them how much information they would like to know.  Be open to questions and let the child know they can come to you at any time with their questions.
  • Offer more information. A child this age may want more details: "What was wrong with Dad's heart? How did the doctors try to fix it? Where is his body now?" She or he can grasp the concept that death is permanent and may have many questions. Be guided by these questions in choosing what information to offer.
  • Provide reassurance. Just as younger children need to hear that they didn't cause the death, so, too, do older children.
  • Be a good listener. Children may have many more questions than they openly ask, especially if they're worried about upsetting you. Tell them it's okay to ask about anything, even questions that seem silly or dumb. You might ask other caring adults to do the same.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.