Consider your child's age and emotional development so that you can
explain loss and death in a way that he or she will understand.
Children younger than 2 years of age cannot express in words what is going on in their lives. You
can reassure the child by holding and cuddling him or her. Stroking the child
while softly talking, singing, or humming can be very soothing. Smile often, and
approach the child at his or her eye level.
Children between 2 and 3 years of age are just learning to use
words to express themselves. Talk with your child using some of the same words
he or she uses. Speak clearly, but be brief when you explain a loss to your
child. Give your child a choice whenever possible. For example, you can say,
"Mommy and Daddy need to go to the hospital to see Grandpa. You are going to
Aunt Jane's. Do you want to put some toys in this bag to take with
Children between 3 and 6 years of age
often believe that their thoughts and wishes cause things to happen. You can
reassure your child that he or she did not cause the "bad" thing to happen. You
can say, "Joey fell from the tree and hit his head. I know you were there and
you might think you made it happen because you were angry with Joey. It's okay
to be angry with someone. Your anger didn't cause Joey to
Children between 6 and 10 years of age don't always fully understand events that occur in their lives.
They may understand only part of what is going on around them. They may
invent conclusions or draw the wrong conclusions about things they don't
understand, resulting in misconceptions about what is happening. They may
develop fears, such as fear of death.
Children between 10 and 12 years of age are able to understand loss the way
adults do. They see death as permanent and irreversible. They often want to be
included in all activities as though they were adults. Include your child in
the activities related to the loss, such as choosing a house when you are