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  • Writer's pictureDr. Edan M. Alcalay

Supporting Grief/Loss in Children

When someone in a child’s life dies, it is normal to tip toe around the topic and feel as though you may say the wrong thing. The truth is, children are resilient. Children want to know two things; that they are loved and that they can trust the person(s) taking care of them. Children deserve to know the truth and for death to be explained to them in an age-appropriate way. It is okay to use words such as “died”, or “killed.” Children under the age of 7 years old are typically unable to understand the concept of death as their brains do not grasp the finality of it; they’re more concrete thinkers at this time. An age appropriate way to explain death to a child under the age of 7 is to state that when someone dies, their body stops working; they don’t pee, they don’t poop, they don’t eat, or sleep anymore. Again, children under the age of 7 are concrete and will make statements such as “where did their body go?” or “why did their body stop working?” Answering in facts allows children to form an understanding of what happened and does not allow for magical thinking. Around the age of 7 or 8, children will start to understand that their person will not come back from being dead. As kids age, they tend to become more future thinkers and will start to recognize that their person will not be there for their graduation, wedding, etc. It is important to recognize and validate the feelings these adolescents have as a result.

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