They don’t understand what has happened; they’re too young. Even the very young know when those around them are upset. Most understand more than adults realize.
Going to the funeral would just upset them. Not being included in family rituals could be more upsetting.

It helps to see how adults grieve.

I must protect them from loss and pain. All children do experience losses and need help learning ways to deal with them.
Children don’t feel grief the same as adults. Everyone grieves in their own way, depending on the circumstances, development level and life experiences.

This is usual and healthy.

When they have grieved once, it should be over. As they develop, children must re-grieve losses in light of new understanding and abilities.
I won’t say or do the right thing; I must be in control to talk to them. There are no right answers, only honest ones.

Saying something acknowledges their grief, dispels fears and misunderstanding.

They won’t want to talk about it. Let that be their choice, not yours.

That’s often all they want to talk about.

I might upset them. They’re already upset; that is a natural part of grieving.
They need to keep busy. Routine activities are important but new activities may be confusing.

Not thinking about it delays grief.

Getting rid of reminders helps; encourage only good memories. This suggests it’s wrong to think of the person who died or to have bad memories.
I won’t mention it unless they do. This suggests it is not alright to mention the person; that there is something bad about them or their death; that you don’t care.
Once they’ve been angry or guilty that should be the end of it. Grief is a process, not steps. Feelings will surface repeatedly, as each aspect of the loss is realized.
It is morbid to want to touch or talk about the body. This is normal for children.

It is a good way to say good-bye and make the death seem real.

Use terms like “passed away” or “gone to heaven”. These are misleading and will confuse and frighten children. “Dead” is better.
If they are not expressing grief, children aren’t grieving. They may not know how to express feelings or know they have permission to grieve. They may delay grief to avoid upsetting others.
I should tell them all the facts immediately. They may not be able to understand all aspects of the death or handle the intensity of the situation right away.

Adapted from “When Children Grieve”

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