Chapter 4: Explaining dying and death
The power of language
When we told the kids that we lost grandpa last night, our 5-year-old immediately jumped up and started trying to find him.
Adults tend to use euphemisms, or “code words,” to talk about illness, dying and death. They often do this to soften the news they’re sharing. This can be confusing for children in ways that you might not expect. Because their experience of sickness is usually minor like a cold or ear ache, they may not understand the illness is serious. Or they may not understand the person has died and won't move or breath again.
This table provides suggestions of clear words and phrases to use.
|Words to use
|Words to avoid
|The name of the illness, such as:
Gone to sleep
|Grandma's body can't see, hear or feel.
|Grandma can't see, hear or feel.
|Died from suicide.
Caused his/her own body to die.