Children's Hospital Colorado

How Grief Affects Children

After the loss of a child, you may have other children in your life who are grieving. When talking to children about death, remember:

  • Some children understand the finality of death better than others. Tailor your language to the child’s level.
  • Use a warm and gentle tone. Establish eye contact and get on the child’s level when talking to him or her. Take time to listen and ask about their concerns.
  • Encourage them to ask questions. Children may not have an immediate or obvious response to learning that a loved one has died. They may take time to process and repeat the same question over and over again. This repetition is normal and helps them to begin understanding what death means.
  • Children tend to think in simple terms. Use direct language like “died” and “dead.” Avoid using terms such as “went to sleep and never woke up,” or “we lost her.”
  • Allow your child to participate in the funeral/memorial if they want, but do not force them.
  • Prepare them by discussing what the funeral might be like. Talk about who will be there, where the body will be during the ceremony or viewing, and what kinds of emotional reactions people may have.
  • Be honest. Express your own feelings about death. It is okay to cry in front of children – this shows them how they can express their grief.
  • Not all children have immediate or obvious reactions after learning a loved one has died. Grief is a process that takes time. Be patient and available as they process what the death means to them.
  • There are people in the community who can help. If you are worried about a child in your life, contact the Bereavement Coordinator at Children’s Hospital Colorado or a local mental health professional.

Download/print our bereavement brochure for parents and guardians (.pdf).