How to Explain Death to a Child

Ahmed was 6 years old. He could not understand that his mother and father had left him at a close friend’s house. In the evening, they left him saying “We will pick you up” and did not say anything else. However, when they went to work, their parents would leave Ahmet with his grandmother, but this time it was not like this.

When his family came to pick him up in the evening, they looked very sad and exhausted. Ahmet, who was very happy to see them, nevertheless knew that something was wrong.

what happened mom? Did you cry? And why didn’t you leave me to my grandma? He asked questions that had been on his mind all day.

His mother didn’t know how to tell her son about his grandmother’s death because she had never mentioned the concept of death to her son until now. He gathered himself a little and formed these sentences:

-How long has your grandmother been sick? As he was old, he could not stand it anymore and left us. He is in heaven now. He had his parents and now he is with them. We will never see him again, but he will watch us from afar. He can see us, but we cannot see him. But when you miss him terribly, he may come to your dreams, she said.

Ahmet was surprised, even frightened. Her mother was saying that she would never see her grandmother again, her lips trembled and she wanted to cry. When he looked at his father and saw that his father was standing strong, he wanted to hold back his tears. So, if a tear falls from his eye, his father gets angry with him, ‘Does a man cry?’ he would say. He had a lot of questions he wanted to ask his mother. But she couldn’t ask, she was upset. He looked around, could his grandmother be with him? After all, he was no longer visible.

She knew that the crowd waiting for them when they got home was for her grandmother. Too many people were crying and looked sad. – Heaven is a beautiful place, my mother told me. If my grandmother went to a beautiful place, why are these people crying? she had thought.

When it was time to sleep, he went to bed. But he couldn’t sleep. It frightened Ahmet to know that someone was watching him, even if it was someone he loved. He had spent the night in fear and sadness, pulling the quilt over his head.

Ahmet didn’t want to sleep alone anymore.

How does the child think?

Children’s emotional development accompanies all their other developments and prepares them for adulthood. A child needs to build a strong foundation to manage their personal emotions and build positive relationships. Undoubtedly, the concept of death must also be included in this.

Ahmet lost his grandmother all of a sudden and was very upset when he learned that he would never see her again. The child is closer to the feeling of abandonment rather than experiencing a loss here. When his mother said, “You will not see your grandmother again, she is gone”, the child said, “How so? Did my grandma leave me? Will he not come to see me anymore?” and the words of his mother watching us from afar caused the child to think, “Is my grandmother a ghost now?”.

Ahmet, who has never heard of the concept of death from his family before, has definitely heard about death on television or in games. Therefore, he never identified this phenomenon with himself and did not think that it would happen to him. He has already given the impression from the experiences around him that this is something simple.

How Does?

Children may say, “Mom, look, the cat is dead” as if it were a natural process when a cat or dog is hit by a car and die, or they may be aware that the animal’s life is over when they accidentally crush a snail or sometimes even on purpose. Sometimes in the games he plays (war, fighting, etc.), he may say “I was shot, they killed me”. Or he might hear it on the news on TV. Even if they have not heard from their parents, ignoring something that has completed its formation in life is a situation that harms your children’s emotional development. What you need to do is to prepare them for this process and to explain it in the most accurate way.

No matter how early death is told to children, it is equivalent for them to overcome this process in a healthy way and to accept it. After all, death is as much a part of life as birth.

What can you do?

Children generally have limited knowledge about death until primary school. They know that they will never see the person or people they lost in this age range, but they also think that this situation will change. In other words, they believe that death is a temporary thing and that it can be changed with sentences or behaviors such as “I miss it, come on now”. At such moments, it is extremely important to show the most correct and real approach. No matter how old you are, when the child calls out to the lost person or says “I miss him”, your unrealistic sentences such as “He hears you, now he has a job, another day will come”, “He knows that you miss him, evening will come” will cause more pain to his world. and it causes him to lose hope. Because this will not happen. Instead, she said, “I know it’s so sad that you won’t be able to see someone you love again, but when we miss them we can look at their pictures or draw a picture of them and say what we couldn’t say to them but they can’t hear us. We do this so that we feel better.” With this approach, you both make him trust you, prevent him from telling the truth and have expectations, and teach him how to deal with this situation by offering solutions.

You can explain death to children as not being able to see each other again. Just as a flower first blooms, then withers and dies, you can give concrete examples to your child. You can even plant the flower together and let them experience and see the whole process. It makes the situation easier to understand. You can multiply the examples as many times as you want. Either through an ant, over a butterfly, or associating it with a story. But be sure to tell.

The examples I mentioned above are valid for children who have never been told about death until this age. (Such as 6 years and older). Ask the child, “Do you know how butterflies are formed? They are born as caterpillars first, and when you see a caterpillar, it does not occur to you that a butterfly will emerge from that caterpillar. But when the time comes, the caterpillar is ready to become a butterfly. It gradually gets rid of its caterpillar state and turns into a butterfly preparing to fly. But butterflies cannot live very long in the world. They have time to leave the world. That’s how they were born. That’s how it is with people. We are born babies first, then we grow up and age. Your grandmother was old and it was time to leave the world. It’s a pity we won’t be able to see him again, but there are so many pictures of him that we can even draw a picture for him to say goodbye. But we will never see or hear him again. ‘ you can say. You can adapt and explain these sentences in sudden deaths. Children can ask many questions. Where did it go? Why did he go? When you are faced with questions such as (you don’t know the answers to these questions anyway) to the child, “I don’t know, people even call it death when they leave the world, I don’t know where they are going. ‘ you can say. If you want to talk about heaven, if your child feels very sad or very bad, he thinks that death is a sweet thing and says, “However, my mother said that when we die, we will go to heaven. I’m not happy, I’ll die then” and end his life. You may have unwittingly laid the groundwork for such an end. Of course, this is not a thought that is valid for every child, but none of us can know which child will think this way and which will not. So don’t risk it and stick to the facts. Children are strong, with the right support of their parents, they can overcome anything.

If you carry out all these explanations in a healthy way and you think that your child is cognitively and emotionally ready, you can also talk about the belonging of people’s bodies to the land after they die. You can even let him visit. When a bird, a butterfly, or a plant dies before, “He is no longer alive. It belongs to the earth. We can’t leave your body here. Let’s bury him together. With experiences like ” you teach the child that bodies are left to the ground after death. However, if you have a child who does not know what death is and you have never explained it with concrete examples, and who is too timid and sensitive to cope with it, you can seek expert support at this point.

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