For most children, death is a new experience. And like all new experiences, the unknown can be confusing and frightening. Most children do not know what to expect following the loss of a family member or friend. Young children may not understand what death really means and may be confused or even frightened by the reactions of other family members. In the case of traumatic death, the confusion and fear is even greater.
For adults, death is more familiar and the grieving process is something many adults know first hand. Most adults have experienced the range of feelings that often come with traumatic loss – anger, confusion and sadness, and have learned ways to cope with loss. This may not be the case for children, particularly young children.
At the same time, children will seek answers and comfort from their caregivers and other adults in their lives. Yet in the face of traumatic death, adults often feel helpless in this role. While adults can not have answers to all the questions that children may have about death, they can help children better understand the grieving process.