Losing a loved one can cause sadness and sometimes trauma for some people. In this article, we try to address this sensitive issue respectfully and explain how to cope with this situation practically, so that children can mourn healthily.

To understand how a child views death, one must consider his age. Children’s understanding of death varies greatly from one year to the next during childhood:

  • Children under three do not understand the limitations of space and time, and do not perceive death as irreversible.
  • After three to six years old, they consider it to be a long dream and understand it without assuming that they will no longer be able to see, hear, or feel us.
  • Then between six and eight, they understand the meaning well, but they often see it as something external that happens, and they find it difficult to understand that it can happen to someone close to them.
  • It is from the age of approximately nine that they see it as an irreversible and universal fact.

Children sometimes show behaviors that are not related to the usual expression of sadness after a loss, such as aggression, hyperactivity, phobias, or attention deficit.

These are some aspects to consider when facing this difficult moment:

  • The person who is going to be responsible for giving the news and explaining the event should be someone close to the child. It should be one of the parents or some relative, someone emotionally close to the child.
  • Do not use euphemisms such as “gone far” or “is sleeping” or “lost”, as they can create confusion and even awaken unusual fears in children. Honest, simple, clear, and precise language is essential to help the child face the death of a loved one.
  • It is good to openly share sadness and memories with the child, encouraging him to talk about the deceased person. Rather than avoiding sadness in the child, support should be provided in this situation.
  • Allow the child to discuss the deceased person as much as they wish, without pressure. Your empathetic communication can help them understand and cope with their loss, aiding in their grief recovery.
  • Stay physically (with love, kisses, hugs …) and emotionally close to your children. In this way, you give them affection, share the pain, and offer them a role model to express related emotions.
  • It’s beneficial to gradually return to daily routines and norms, without ignoring the reality of the loss. Avoid making significant changes in the child’s environment, relationships, and daily activities, and keep demands to a minimum.
  • Many resources can aid in understanding and accepting death. Games, for instance, can be incredibly helpful. They allow for the recreation of related situations and the creation of alternative endings. Tools like dolls, letters, and drawings can be used in these games.
  • Stories are another valuable resource. They provide comfort and insight during challenging times. There are numerous stories specifically designed to aid in dealing with grief and loss. For instance, Storyberries offers a collection of free stories centered around these themes. These stories also include discussion points at the end, facilitating thoughtful conversations on the subject.
  • The process of grief requires careful observation, particularly during the first year. This includes conducting interviews with caregivers or teachers, monitoring behavior and development, and observing play activities. Additionally, it’s crucial to prepare for potential reactions on significant dates, such as anniversaries.

Should the child go to the funeral?

The child should not be forced to go to the funeral of a loved one. But it is good to ensure that the child can honor or remember the person in some way and according to family and social customs (light a candle, say a prayer, prepare a scrapbook, review the photos, or tell a story). Children need to express their loss and grief.

It is important to respect the child’s feelings and wishes, but also to reassure them that they are not alone and that they can always talk to someone they trust.

The funeral can be an opportunity for children to say goodbye to their loved one in a meaningful way, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful for them. Therefore, it is advisable to plan and prepare them for what to expect.

From the age of 6–7 years, the child’s opinion can be taken into account when attending the funeral. However, if they do attend, it’s crucial to ensure that they have a supportive individual by their side who can provide comfort and can leave the venue if the experience becomes too overwhelming for the child.

The funeral can also be a chance for children to meet other relatives or friends who share their grief and support them. This can help them feel less isolated and more connected.

In conclusion, supporting a child who is grieving the loss of a loved one involves understanding their perspective of death, which varies with age, and recognizing their unique expressions of grief. It’s crucial to communicate the news of the loss honestly, encourage open discussions about the deceased, and maintain physical and emotional closeness. Resuming daily routines gradually, utilizing resources like games and stories, and observing the child’s behavior during the first year of grief are also key strategies. Decisions about attending funerals should be made with the child’s comfort in mind. With these approaches, we can help children navigate their grief healthily and respectfully.

Best free books at Storyberries

Stories About Dying and Loss

Bedtime Stories The Very Tired Lioness animal stories for kids header illustration

The Very Tired Lioness

A lioness feels so tired that she is invited to follow the sun into the clouds.

Chuchu Manchu’s Jar of Toffees

Preet loves Chuchu Manthu… but one day he is gone. How can she remember him with love?

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Short stories for kids Circles free picture book header


A mother vulture teaches a baby vulture about the cycles of life and death.

This article was written by Luzmery M. Romero Gamboa

Luzmery Child Psychologist Storyberries

Luzmery works in the area of clinical psychology as a psychotherapist for children, adolescents, and families. Since 2016, she has run a Psychological Center in Venezuela called Psicoluz. She offers workshop facilitations to parents, is involved in recreational activities for children, and has been working as a freelancer since 2017 performing online psychotherapy.