Talking to Children About the Death of a Relative

What's the best way to help a child work through the passing of a relative or close family member? My father died this year, and our grade-school-aged son has been asking questions. For example, he wants to know where grandpa has gone and whether he has become a "guardian angel." How do I respond without confusing him?

Death is part of life. It’s important for children to understand this. We’d encourage you to be open and honest with your kids about their grandfather’s passing. Look for teachable moments and opportunities to talk frankly, not only about what’s happened, but also about their feelings about it. Let them know that you miss grandpa, too, and that it’s okay to feel sad when we lose a loved one.

Be sure to use age-appropriate language. Bear in mind that most young children don’t have the capacity to grasp abstract concepts like death and eternity. There’s a good chance that they will not fully understand what has happened to their grandfather and won’t be able to appreciate the permanence of death. So keep the discussion simple. Gear it to your children’s level of maturity and insight. Most of all, focus on God’s promise of eternal life to all who believe in Jesus. It’s vital to concentrate on this hopeful aspect of death.

Our staff counselors would be pleased to discuss your situation with you over the phone. Don’t hesitate to call us.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Children and Grief: Helping Your Child Understand Death

It’s Okay to Cry: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Through the Losses of Life

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

How to Help Your Child Grieve

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