Barbadians generally are not big talkers. We aren’t known to be showy with our innermost feelings either. Having a death in the family can trigger an outpouring of emotion and confusion, especially from children who might not fully understand what’s going on – or how to cope.

Questions and Explanations about Death

At Tudor’s Funeral Home, we believe the best way to help your child understand and cope with the loss of a loved one is by encouraging questions – even if you, as the parent, don’t have all the answers. Children see characters die on TV and read about death in books, but many times questions about death are not resolved in cartoons or stories, and children are left to create their own interpretation based only on what they see.

Because young children (4-6 years-old) are very literal, they tend not to understand the finality of death. Perhaps, it is best to explain the passing in terms of the body ceasing to work and doctors not being able to fix it. Also, try not to over think your answers. If your child asks where the deceased has gone, keep it simple with direct answers like ‘the cemetery.’ You may wish to introduce your beliefs at this point, but be cognizant of the fact that this may cause some confusion and may be better understood when the child is a little older.

As children move into the 6-10 age range, they have a better understanding of death, but still may not realize that every living thing dies at some point. They may also think that they somehow contribute to death through their actions (marks at school, wishing, etc). It’s best to acknowledge this – even if you don’t know for sure if a child is having these associations – to clear up any possible misconceptions.

As they move into adolescence, they begin to realize their own mortality and you may find that they become more reluctant to do things which they previously enjoyed, but now view as risky – such as flying or playing sports. It’s important to explain to them that despite what they may see in the newspaper, in movies, or on television, the world is still a safe place.

Celebrating Life – Children at Funerals

Only you will know if it’s appropriate for your child to attend a funeral or ceremony. If you decide the time is right, describe to them what they’ll see and how others may be reacting to the death of a loved one through crying, sobbing, hugging and reflection. Explain appropriate behaviour and your expectations for them as early as you can.

Final Notes on Discussing Death With Your Child

If you think your child might be embarrassed or feel awkward about the discussion, ask a trusted family member or friend to help with the process. Sometimes, children need to hear words about death from someone with whom they aren’t as close. Regardless, be willing to entertain questions and provide the best answers you can when discussing death with your child. Feel free to visit our Children’s Corner for more information on this topic…