Chapter 6: Preparing for an approaching death

Should my child see the dying process?

The expert says
Andrea Warnick, children's grief therapist, talks about preparing children for what they'll see as someone is dying and dies. (3:22)Video transcript
I've been there
Galith remembers the fun that continued to the end of her husband's life.(3:22)Video transcript

I was worried she'd be scared by how her grandma looked in the hours before her death. But I later learned that what she was imagining was far scarier. 

Many people struggle with how much of the dying process their children should be part of. Research and experience tell us that they benefit when they are told that death is likely, before it happens. This way they:

  • Can be present and involved – if they wish.
  • Have time to think about the death before it happens.  


Follow the cues

Your child will let you know through questions and actions:

  • How much information they want and need.
  • How involved they’d like to be.

This will depend on their age, personality and life experience.  


When children aren't included

Children who aren’t given the option to spend time with someone who that care about that is dying may:

  • Imagine the dying process to be much worse than the reality.
  • Later regret they didn’t:
    • Spend time with this person while they had the chance.
    • Say goodbye or share other final moments.  


Preparation and safety

The key is to:

  • Prepare them for what they'll see. 
  • Create a safe environment where they feel supported, are allowed to ask questions and express their grief.