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How to Talk About Death and Grief with Children

When a person in a child’s life dies, it may be challenging to speak to them about it. However, children grieve too. We cannot shield them from the pain, but we can help them cope healthily.

  • Find a comfortable, quiet place where the child feels safe. Be honest and talk in age-appropriate language they understand. If a child is told that “we lost dad,” they might not understand what that means. They may think that dad is alive and can be found.
  • Encourage the child to express what they are thinking and feeling. They may feel sad and cry, or they may ask to go out to play after learning of the news. This is normal.
  • They may ask the same questions repeatedly. This is an important part of the grieving process for children. Listen patiently and answer their questions the best you can.
  • Keeping structure and sticking to routines as much as possible is important. It helps children feel secure and know they have people who love and care for them.
  • Encouraging children to share happy memories of their loved ones can help healing too. They can paint, draw, journal, look at pictures, anything that comforts them.
  • Seek help from Lory’s Place, a program of Caring Circle at Corewell Health. They offer free grief healing and education from their center in St. Joseph, for both children and adults. Lory’s Place also offers a school outreach program in elementary, middle and high schools across Southwest Michigan.

Grief Support is Not a One-Size-Fits-All

In 2019, Benton Harbor community leaders partnered with Lory’s Place to create a Community Grief Alliance, to address the unique grief needs they observed in individuals of color.

Grieving is difficult enough, but for some, particularly people of color living in areas with health disparities and higher death rates, there can be different reasons that impact healing. Ronnika Williams, an alliance member, shared that she would ask friends if they talked openly about their grief stories and the answer was usually no.

The Community Grief Alliance is going strong and recently received a grant to further support its mission. A series of free events have brought together Benton Harbor residents to talk openly about the importance of healthy mourning. The events are free and take place in a safe, confidential environment. Participants expressed feeling relief and said the heavy weight of their grief lessened after attending.

For more information about community grief events, visit or call 269.983.2707.

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