How do we explain it to a child?

In my first post I mentioned that I lost my partner suddenly and unexpectedly on the 21st March. There had been no illness or warning. He was 42 and I was 39.

My question relates to our four year old niece. When all the adults around her are struggling to make sense of what has happened, how do we explain it to a four year old?

We answer her questions as honestly and truthfully as we can and, I think to an extent she understands. She gets upset and cries sometimes, other times she acts out. Then suddenly yesterday she asked when my partner (her uncle) was coming to see her again. It was like she’d forgotten.

Any guidance would be appreciated. Thank you.

Hi Shaun,

I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your partner so suddenly and at such a young age. I hope that being able to talk about it here on the Online Community helps a tiny bit. And I am sorry also to hear about how it is affecting your niece. Talking to children about death is a very hard thing to do, and it is great that you are trying to be as honest as possible with her. The bereavement support teams in our hospices always say that it is good to use direct language, as vague terms such as “gone away” or “gone to sleep” are confusing for children and can make it harder for them to come to terms with the situation.

At her age, it is natural that she struggles to understand, but it must be very hard for you and the rest of the family to have to keep explaining it again.

Sue Ryder has some information on supporting bereaved children, which you might find helpful:

For further information and support, the charity Winston’s Wish are very helpful, and have telephone and online support if you need to get in touch with them:

Thank you Priscilla

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