Came across a great post about how to help children cope with death. Here's a clip:
For many people, death is a scary subject. When a child experiences the death of a family member or friend for the first time it is important to carefully walk them through the experience. Most of the time parents don’t do this very well leaving children with some kind of warped, cartooned understanding about what happens when someone dies. Parents say things like, “Nana is with us all the time. She’s an angel watching over us every day.” Recently I heard a Christian parent tell his daughter that “the big man in the sky” wanted grandpa to be with Him. While all these attempts to bring death to a child’s level are understandable, they may not be beneficial.
When my daughter Madelyn was in first grade she had a good friend named Colby who was in her class at school and her Sunday school class at church. Unfortunately her friend was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that ended his life after several months of suffering. As parents we struggled with how to tell Madelyn what was happening in a way that made sense to a first grader but that was also biblically truthful.
Family ministry is about equipping parents. When a loved one or a friend of a child dies, we need to help parents talk with their children in biblically true, age-appropriate ways. Here are some things we might consider teaching the parents of the kids in our ministries when dealing with death.
1) Don’t make up another word or phrase for death when it is time to break the news. Sometimes in an effort to shield our children from the emotional impact of death we often uses phrases that can be utterly confusing for them. Common examples of this include, “She has gone to be with Jesus” or “He is in a better place now” or even “He passed away.” While these phrases are true they don’t communicate the terminal reality of the situation. They may be appropriate later but the initial conversation should be clear. When we told our Maddie about her friend Colby we chose to say it like this. “You know your friend Colby has been sick for a long time. Today, Colby died and you will not see him again until you go to heaven.” This actually helped Maddie begin to grieve with clarity. She immediately understood the finality of the situation.