Christian Living


Family Matters 03/27/20

Helping Children Deal with Loss and Death

Mother hugging her crying son

There has been so much tragedy in the news lately. Plus, my husband's brother suddenly died recently and we wondered how much we should say around our eight-year-old son. We do not want to upset him, but we are all grieving right now. What should we do?

Norman Paul, a well-known family therapist who wrote about loss, spoke to the importance of sharing our grief. Healing, in part, is in telling our story. My personal experiences, combined with experiences of the clients I've treated, validate this. It is helpful for the entire family to sit down and recount the events of the death and talk about it together.

Your son already feels grief. He is observing how people react to the loss. He hears comments. Openly talking about it will help him put words to what he feels and senses in you and others. Don't give him more details than he needs. Listen to his questions.

Much comfort is found when families help each other through difficult times. Reassure your children that you are still there to care for them. Your son is old enough to understand that death is final, but won't fully comprehend the loss until he is a little older. Children react in individual ways when it comes to dealing with death. Some will ask questions. Others will say little.

When a close relative dies, some children feel guilty because they do not fully understand cause and effect. They may see death as a punishment or become angry that their uncle isn't around anymore. But, anger is normal and needs to be expressed. The important point is to not shy away from conversations about the loss. This is a time to explain the importance of your faith and what you believe about death, but not to minimize the loss.  Hopefully, he will experience the supernatural peace that only God can bring to a family during such a painful time. 

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