Letting a child know their sibling has died

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This section offers some advice on how to let a child know their sibling has died. This advice has culminated from a number of separate sources and professionals.

Sooner rather than later

It is best to tell your child that their sibling has died sooner rather than later. This should be told to them by someone in the family, preferably a parent or a carer. If you feel like you can not do this, a close family member should explain while you stay in the room.

Be honest

It might feel like saying "gone to sleep" or that "we have lost your brother/sister" are 'kinder' ways to let your child know their sibling has died, but these words can cause confusion. Using terms like 'died' and explaining what this means will help your child understand this (for example, they are not waking up, but they are not in pain).

Do not overload information

Be honest about their sibling's death, but only give the information that the child wants. This is usually seen with a child asking a question (indicating that they are ready to hear the answer). You can give them more information later if needed, try to avoid overloading your child with information they do not want to hear.

Children prefer not to be shielded

Children prefer not to be protected from parents feelings. Hiding your feelings from children is not helpful to them, be open with how you feel to your child and it may support their grieving process.


Reassurance

For some children, they need reassurance that the death has nothing to do with them. You might need to do this more than once. It might also be appropriate to remind children that death usually happens to people who are very old, and it does not mean that your child will die when they go to sleep that night.

Be supported

It goes without saying, make sure you are supported. Friends, family or organisations can offer advice and help. Be open with how you feel and talk to people.

For more information, see here. Or call Child Bereavement UK's helpline 0800 02 888 40 to ask for advice.