Chapter 4: Supporting children

The importance of honesty

The grief expert says
Andrea Warnick, children's grief counsellor, discusses how to support children by being open to conversation and answering their questions.(3:22)Video transcript
I've been there
Honor speaks about being open and honest with her children.(3:22)Video transcript
Cath describes talking with her children about what would happen to Gumpa's spirit and body after he died.(3:22)Video transcript
Cath describes answering her daughter's questions about life and death.(3:22)Video transcript

I think my parents meant well, but they didn’t tell me how sick my grandmother was, so I never really got to say goodbye. They were trying to protect me, but it made me super angry instead. My grandmother was my “Vo-vo” and I loved her so much.

It’s natural to want to protect children, and this can make it difficult for you to talk to them about your loss. When speaking with your own children, you may worry that talk of death may cause significant despair in them.

Children are both curious and intuitive. They can sense when something significant is happening in their environment, especially when it involves you. Below are three reasons it is important to include children by giving them age-appropriate information. Roll your mouse over each box to see more.

They may think they are responsible for your sadness.



If they sense that you are sad or acting differently, they may try to be especially well-behaved and helpful, or act happy, thinking this will make you “all better.”


They may internalize it so you are unaware.



It is likely that they will worry, perhaps in silence, about what has happened.


They may become fearful.



They may imagine something worse than the reality. They may also fear that you will die.


Although you may also be grieving, you will need to find the time and space to support your children. This can be challenging, but also rewarding.


It’s important that children understand and believe that you are there for them. They will also learn that even when things are difficult, there is value in sharing emotions and learning how to support others. This can help them develop the resilience they will need throughout their lives.