What happens when someone dies?

Golden rules for answering children’s questions

In an age where children’s film and television heroes come back to life, and where Doctor Who can die and then come back as a new character, we might wonder what sense children make of the permanence of death.  At Easter time with its historical Christian message of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the focus in the media is often one of fluffy bunnies, chicks and of course chocolate Easter eggs.  It’s confusing!

Unsurprisingly when a family experiences the death of someone close to them, explaining what happens when someone dies is probably the hardest thing that an adult has to do, and the hardest thing a child will have to comprehend. Being able to talk openly about it can be really important particularly for children and young people.

Even children of a young age will have an awareness of death though they may not understand the reality of the person never coming back.  Slightly older children will often become very anxious about death, especially fearing the death of other members of the family or themselves.  For young people having trusted family members, friends and carers who they can talk to about their feelings will be really important.

Children are masters at asking difficult and repetitive questions, it’s fundamental to how they learn and helps them to make sense of their world.  Yet in a bid to protect children from the truth about what has happened when someone has died parents can unwittingly add to their children’s confusion which in turn can lead to behaviour problems, separation anxiety, fear, anger, sadness and withdrawal.

This Easter alongside the celebration of new life that surrounds us in the natural world there may be the opportunity to talk together about the natural cycle of life that has a beginning and an ending.  Perhaps you could even focus on how you can make the most of every day in the lifetime we have in-between. Click here to download our golden rules for answering children’s questions about death.


About SeeSaw

SeeSaw provides grief support for children, young people and their families in Oxfordshire.  Through appropriate and timely support, SeeSaw can help to reduce the emotional, psychological and mental health consequences of bereavement.  Young people are then able to face the future with hope.

It can be difficult to know what to say to a child when someone has died. Here are some guidelines to help you to talk to your child. 

SeeSaw offers:

  • Telephone consultations to any parent or professional who is concerned about a bereaved child.
  • Home visits to families to assess their needs and talk about ways in which SeeSaw might be able to help.    
  • Tailored individual support for children and young people when needed. This often involves one-to-one sessions with a support worker and takes place where the child is most comfortable – in their own home.    
  • Specialist support to families and professionals when a parent or sibling is dying.        
  • Family events and activity days which enable children, young people and their families to meet together in a fun and relaxed way.      
  • Information and training to school staff when they are supporting a bereaved child in the classroom or managing a death in the school community.     
  • Training, consultancy and resources to professionals working with bereaved children and young people. 

If you are worried about a bereaved child in your care then please call the friendly SeeSaw team for help, advice and guidance on 01865 744768 or email SeeSaw


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