Knowing what to say to children when a loved one dies can be a challenge. Many families from New Jersey and beyond have approached our care team at ­­­­Wright & Ford Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services over the years wondering about the “best” ways to handle such a complex and emotional topic. In our work of helping families plan funerals or memorial services, we’ve observed that children react to death differently, often depending on their ages.

While most realize something sad and difficult is going on, some children haven’t developed the coping skills for unpleasant events and may react in physical ways.

This might include headaches, upset stomachs, or unusual aches and pains. In some cases, children will regress by thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, or by angry and aggressive tantrums. They may also avoid the issue entirely by pretending the person who died has simply gone shopping or on vacation.  All of these behaviors are entirely normal.

Above all, children need sensitivity, patience, and support as they process the loss. Consider these tips on how you react to children during a time of grief:


  • Do be honest but keep it simple when explaining death to children. For example, “Grandma’s body stopped working.”
  • Do share your faith, but in a way your children can understand. If they need more details, they will ask questions. It’s perfectly acceptable to admit that you don’t always have the answers.
  • Do help them find ways to express their grief and frustration, such as drawing, music, exercise, and other forms of play.
  • Do include them in the funeral rituals or memorial services you plan.
  • Do express your grief in front of your child. Tears and sadness are normal and appropriate reactions to death.


  • Don’t try to hide the death from them.
  • Don’t change your daily routine. As much as possible, stick to a consistent schedule including school and social events.
  • Don’t use euphemisms and clichés to describe the situation. Phrases like “passed away,” “went to sleep,” or “moved on” can be confusing to children.
  • Don’t be afraid or nervous to talk about your loved one. Research shows that sharing stories and memories helps with healing and closure.
  • Don’t expect children to move through grief quickly. Losing a loved one is difficult, regardless of your age.

At Wright & Ford Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services, it’s part of our mission to help the grieving move toward healing, which is why we provide a number of aftercare resources for families. It doesn’t matter what time of day, or what day of the week you need support, we’re here for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.