Explaining to young children that someone has died

Talking to a young child about death and dying is incredibly difficult and can feel just too hard to do.  In order to make some sense of what has happened children need information and explanations.  These need to be honest, simple and in language that children understand.

Read more in our information sheet on Explaining to young children that someone has died

See also Supporting Children after a Frightening Event

Talking to children when a baby dies

Parents often hesitate to tell children that their baby brother or sister has died because they do not like to hurt the children and cause them to worry about the future.   Nevertheless it is important that the family talk about what has happened.  Read more in our information sheet on Explaining miscarriage stillbirth or the death of a newborn baby to young children

Viewing a body with a child

Viewing a body may feel like a very grownup thing for a child to do and many adults will understandably have reservations. People have different views, or may assume that a child will find it too upsetting.

If they are given a choice and are well prepared, bereaved children tell us that seeing the body is something that they do not regret doing. Children can view the body to say goodbye, or to gain reassurance that the body is at peace, especially if the death was in traumatic circumstances. They tell us that this helps to put their minds at rest and that the real thing, however difficult, is never as bad as imagined thoughts and unanswered questions. For many, it helps them start to understand the reality of what being dead means.

It is important that children do not feel under pressure to view a body to please adults, or because they think that it is something that they are expected to do. Even children who have chosen to view the body may feel unsure, so it is good to reassure them that they can change their minds right up until the last minute. If they feel they need to keep their distance, looking in from the door is another option.

Try to organise a viewing for yourself without the child. This will allow you to experience your own initial reactions without having to support your child at the same time. This also means that you will be able to describe to the child what they will see.

Be guided by what feels right for you and your children, but it can help to talk things through with someone from outside the family. Our helpline (0800 02 888 40) can offer guidance based on what bereaved families tell us.