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Tips for helping children through the death of a loved one | Wear the Gown

Telling them the truth and avoiding euphemisms is one of the best ways to go.

SAN ANTONIO — Talking about the death of a loved one is usually difficult for adults, but when someone's passing has to be explained to a child it becomes even harder.

Losing a family member is never easy. Losing one to COVID without the chance to say goodbye makes it so much worse, especially for children. 

"A child may not fully understand why, again, they cannot visit their loved one, but they may have seen very little symptoms in this loved one. So it's very difficult for them to follow that," said Rebecca Charlton who is a Child Life Specialist with the Palliative Care Team at University Hospital. She's seen the heartbreak first hand. 

"I worked with a mother and her son who would literally come and park in a parking lot across the street from the hospital so that they could feel closer to the father and to her husband," Charlton said.

When explaining death to a child, Charlton says children need clarity and no false information. 

"The best way to explain death to a child is to say your grandfather's body stopped working," she said.

Encourage your child to draw to get their feelings out, and to remember their loved one in a positive way. 

"Ask them, you know, what did your grandpa like to do? Tell me a funny story about your grandpa," she said.

Charlton says adults need to understand children grieve in spurts. 

"They may cry or be sad. And then they want to go play. And after they've played a while they may come back and need a hug," she said.

Charlton also says don't skirt around the issue, and avoid euphemisms like they are sleeping or have gone to a better place, because that could make your child afraid to go to sleep.