Clinical Hub,Patient Education,Health and Nutrition Facts For You,Psychosocial, Bereavement, Psychiatry

How to Explain Death to Siblings and Help Them Cope (7533)

How to Explain Death to Siblings and Help Them Cope (7533) - Clinical Hub, Patient Education, Health and Nutrition Facts For You, Psychosocial, Bereavement, Psychiatry


How to Explain Death to Siblings and How to Help Them Cope with
the Death of a Sibling

1. Let them talk and listen to what they
have to say.

2. Know that they may not want to talk.
Let them know it is ok to ask
questions, share their feelings and
thoughts, and talk when they feel

3. Find out what they want to know by
asking basic questions. You can
open the conversation with a
question such as “What do you
understand about what is
happening/happened with (sibling’s
name)?” By opening up with a
question, you can find out what they
already know.

4. Answer the questions they ask
honestly using words they can
If you don’t know an answer, don’t be afraid
to say you don’t know. If it’s a question you
can find out, find out together.
5. Answer the questions they ask with
facts. Separate what is known and
what is believed. Use concrete
words like “died”, “death”, “dying”,
and “dead”. Using phrases like
“passed away”, “lost”, “gone”, or
“sleeping” can cause confusion for
children who do not know that death
is permanent. They may think the
deceased person will wake up or
come back. It may lead to fear of
falling asleep.

6. Keep your answers short and make
sure you answered what they are

7. Be patient. Anyone dealing with
grief needs time to understand what
happened and adjust. Children may
ask the same questions over and
over. They can also be overwhelmed
and sad one moment, and silly and
playful the next moment.

8. Offer children time to write, draw, or
do other art projects. This may help
them to express their feelings they
may not have words for. Offer
children time to physical activity.
This can help release excess energy
and emotions. Remember to
maintain routines as much as
possible, such as school, time with
friends, and typical activities for the
child, to provide structure and

9. Involve children in new family
rituals to remember the child who
died, such as a special family outing,
planting of a tree, or creating a
memento for your home.

10. Reach out to hospital support staff,
such as child life specialists, social
workers, health psychologists, and
chaplains, for books and other
resources to help you talk to your
child and help them begin to cope.

Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#7533.