Death is inevitable; it’s a part of life. As adults, we have a lifetime’s worth of experience in handling grief — children, however, are new to these difficult and heartbreaking emotions.
Without the right guidance, death can be a very confusing and overwhelming concept for a child to grasp. As parents, grandparents, and guardians, it is our duty to understand how to explain death to children in a healthy, honest, and responsible way as it will lay the foundation of their relationship with the concept.
This is especially challenging for most parents because it is a natural instinct for them to want to protect their children from the whole subject of death, loss, grief, funerals, and sadness. They might feel that the children are too young to understand and that the information would harm them.
Children are exceptionally imaginative and their conscious reality is very different from ours. Because their thought processes are so malleable, everything they learn at a young age will contribute to the way they see the world at a later stage in life.
With that in mind, the words you use to explain death is a very important consideration to make as it can have far-reaching effects on their mental well-being.
An effective way of explaining the concept to toddlers is using books specifically designed for them to grasp the concept in a way they can comprehend.
Where Did My Friend Go? Helping Children Cope with A Traumatic Death is a children’s book about death. It is a therapeutic picture book to be read by an adult to a young child (3-8 years old), who is coping with sudden or traumatic death. A thorough guide for adults and child-based interventions is provided at the beginning and end of the book.
The purpose of the book is to help the child understand and cope with his/her shock, loss, confusion, and fear. Therapeutic and support interventions are presented at the end of the book for the adult to work through with the child.
The book begins a dialogue about sudden death, addresses what happened, identifies feelings, explores fears, confusion, and loss, helps the child cope with the trauma and grief, and reassures the child with safe tools. It is a first step, cost-effective, and immediate mental health intervention for the youngest survivors and witnesses of sudden or traumatic death.