Children dying; what do you say or do?

I am opening the door for discussion and thoughts on children dying from an illness or whatever reason.

Young children unable to talk can sense how others are reacting.  Emotions carrying a heaviness of fear, anxiety and sadness are difficult for family members to hide.  A child this age will not understand a conversation about death but will respond to love, and all that goes with this added security.

Many older children understand the aspect of dying and are able to communicate this, but as family members are you ready for this conversation? What does your scenario look like?

  • We both know and we both talk about it
  • We both know and no one talks about it
  • I know you are dying but no one has officially told you that you are dying
  • I know something is wrong but no one has told me

Actions speak louder than words.

Dying children are known to keep some of their feelings inside in an effort to make others feel better and try to protect their loved ones from hurt and sadness. A dying child may want to make arrangements for friends or family to have some of their possessions.  A sibling may want to share their feelings and concerns with a dying brother or sister, and their family.

What happens to the individuals involved when a child is dying?  Parents, siblings, grandparents and extended family members have their reactions to an impending loss. Keeping the lines of communication open can allow for everyone to share their concerns and feelings. (Grief reactions are different for everyone)

Consider for a moment, what might happen when the door to discussing death is opened?

  • Enable love to be shared more freely
  • Enable sharing of stories, some of which may be funny
  • Open direct communication of concerns and decision making
  • Allow for good byes
  • Allow for reassurance for the dying child that everything will be done to keep them free of pain, comfortable, loved, comforted and not alone
  • Allow for questions to be asked about spiritual or religious beliefs

When someone is dying, often times they do not know who is safe to share their concerns with; concerns can include spiritual experiences.  Are you a safe person? Open the doors for discussion on this topic and watch what happens.

This is not meant to be a one size fits all solution but a few ideas to consider at a time when life seems out of control.  No matter what decision is made, in many cases children are aware they are going to die when the time is getting closer.

What can you do to?

This is an ENORMOUS question when helping someone who is dying means letting go.


but exactly what are you letting go of and do you have to let go of everything?

All my best,

Barbara Gillett Saunders

“Image courtesy of  Phaitoon/”