How Do I Explain Death to my Seven Year-old

Question: Dear Luise: My father died last September. He was in hospital for three weeks and then he passed away. I have a seven year-old daughter who was very close to both my parents. My mother is alive and she and I are coping with our loss to the best of our ability. But my daughter has never asked about what happens after death or anything else about her grandfather. She never speaks about him at all. I am not sure whether I should talk to her about…anything. I am still not in a mental state to do that without breaking down. Please advise. H.

Answer: Dear H: At seven your daughter is capable of being very observant. She has watched you and her grandmother and felt your grief for the last eight months. Surely she misses her grandfather. She probably knows that to ask you anything about it would bring more tears. She probably also misses the person you were before this happened.

Some children are more sensitive to what’s going on around them than others. Wherever your daughter is in that spectrum, she’s fine. We are all individuals.

Who do you know that could interact with her about the reality and finality of death? She needs to process her loss in her own way. Children are often more accepting of death but not always. Loss can leave scars if unspoken thoughts and non-addressed emotions are not brought to the surface to be dealt with.

If you don’t have a close, adult friend who would be willing to spend some time with her for the purpose of bringing the subject up, how about a counselor? Someone needs to approach her to help her get through her questions and beyond her grief. Not just one session but a series of contacts to explore where she is with this and where she needs to go to find peace.

Over and over again all through life, death interferes with our sense of security and continuity. The sooner she learns to factor it into her reality, the better. Blessings, Luise

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