How to tell children or young people someone close to them is dying
What questions might my child ask?
Answering your child’s questions openly and honestly using clear and simple language at their developmental level of understanding will help them to process what is happening. If you do not have the answer to a question, or find a question too difficult to discuss at that time, then it is OK to say so and follow up on it at a later date when you have the information or feel stronger and ready to talk about it. In our experience, these are the types of questions children usually ask:
Will I catch the illness too?
“This illness is not like a cold or tummy bug and you can’t catch it from them. It is ok to sit close to Daddy/Mummy/Grandpa and you can still hug and kiss them.”
If the person has been diagnosed with an infectious disease, you can explain simply what the name of the disease is and how people can protect themselves from catching it.
Who will look after me when you are/daddy is in hospital?
“Granny/Daddy/Mummy is going to be here to stay with you whilst I am/Daddy/Mummy is in hospital. You won’t be left on you own. If you are worried about anything, you can speak to them at any time.”
Who will take me to my swimming lesson/football training/choir practice?
“Granny/Daddy/ Mummy will try to make sure that you still get to go to your activities each week because it is important that you carry on with these and continue to have fun.”
Is this my fault?
“Nothing you said or did or thought could ever make this happen. And nothing you didn’t do or say or think could ever make this happen. I am/Mummy is/Daddy is very ill and it is nobody’s fault”.
What will happen to me when Mummy/Daddy dies?
“We will miss Mummy/Daddy very much and our lives will feel very different without them. Sometimes we will feel very sad that they are not here with us and we will miss them. But we will get through this together.”