Telling a child about the death of a close family member is never easy. This morning I had the unpleasant task of telling my nine year old daughter that her grandmother had passed away in her sleep, and she took it quite hard. I debated on whether to wait and tell her after school, but I could not pretend that nothing was wrong. She stayed home from school to try and cope with the loss. I could not make everything all right, but I had to find ways to comfort her. Telling a child that a person is better off in Heaven is not necessarily the best method of comfort. Even if they are better off because of a lingering illness or some other ailment, the child misses that family member. Kind comments alone will not ease the pain.
Let the Child Grieve in His or Her Own Way
Crying is a normal part of the grieving process, and everyone reacts differently when they learn of a death in the family. One of the best ways to comfort a child is through understanding. Do not try to stop the child from crying. They should not have to hold it in, and they should be encouraged to express their feelings. Even the most inspiring words will not change the way they feel about the death of a close family member. It is important to allow kids to grieve in their own way. Children can suffer from emotional shock, and they understand more than adult family members realize. Let the shock wear off before providing words of wisdom on life and death. Understanding and acceptance will come in time.
Provide Lots of Hugs, Kisses and Emotional Support
After the death of a family member, provide lots of hugs. A hug can be one of the best forms of comfort for a grieving child. A hug combined with emotional support is even better than just one or the other. Do not wait for the child to come to you for hugs and guidance. Reach out and provide it, and answer questions when asked.
Gather with Other Family Members
As the day has progressed, my daughter has stopped crying, but I know that her emotions will rise and fall. As the day turns to night, it becomes even harder to cope. Her older cousin stopped by to take her out for ice cream, and she gladly accepted. She needed to be around other family members during this very rough time in her life. Just being near loved ones that care can be a great comfort. The death of a family member is shocking even if it is expected, and family members can work together to help the child through the grieving process.
Source: Personal Experience