Chapter 5: Children at the bedside

Notifying children of the death

We forewarned the school and the coach so that our son could be excused at a moment’s notice without any questions.

If the child wants to be present

Ask if they are hoping to be with their dying family member when the person dies. If so, discuss with them that it is not always possible to know when someone will die; however, reassure them that effort will be made to have them there.

For a child who does want to be present, plan who might be available to pick them up from school or other activities to bring them to the bedside.

If the child does not want to be present

Discuss with children how they want to find out about the person’s death, and plan in advance to help support them with this. For example, if they are at school when the death happens, find out if they want to be picked up and told in the middle of the day. If the child or youth would like this, notify the school and arrange a plan in advance with a trusted friend or family member (in case you are not available). Let the child know that it may not be an immediate family member who is able to do this.

However, your child may choose something different. They may prefer to wait until they get home from school or their activities to find out.

It is important not to pressure the child or youth to be present at the death if they prefer not to, and it is just as important not to instill guilt for the child’s choices.