- Helping ChildrenWhen a Family Member Has Cancer:Dealing With a Parent’s Terminal Illness
- Why should I tell my children I’m dying?
- When should children be told that a parent might die?
- How do I explain to a young child that their parent is dying?
- Are there differences in issues depending on whether the sick parent is a mother, father, or other caregiver?
- What if I am the only parent and have a terminal illness?
- How do children differ by age in dealing with illness and death?
- Infants or very young children
- Children age 3 to 5
- Children age 6 to 8
- Children age 9 to 12
- When death is near, should children be involved in the actual event?
- How can children be prepared for the memorial ritual or funeral?
- What other factors influence how a child understands a parent’s death?
- How are children affected by the surviving parent’s grief?
- Spiritual and religious beliefs may help comfort children
- How should your child’s school be included?
- To learn more
Spiritual and religious beliefs may help comfort children
A family’s cultural, spiritual, or religious beliefs are often very important in how they understand death and cope with it. People who have a strong religious faith are often comforted by the idea that a higher power is present in their lives. This faith can help them cope with their loss and suffering. If people believe in life after death, death may be seen as a new beginning. Some people are angry for a while and struggle to match their spiritual beliefs with what’s happening to someone they love. The question “Why me?” is one that most people ask, and many turn to a higher power for help with the answer.
So how do these beliefs affect how children understand the illness and death of a parent? The explanation of life after death is hard to grasp because it’s based on faith and may not seem clear to a child. A child might be comforted that Mommy is now in a safe place with no more cancer, or they could feel angry that their Mommy has been taken from them. The child will understand death in the context of what the family believes.
You can talk with the children about your personal beliefs. In time, children develop their own belief system which may help them make some sense of a parent’s death.
Last Medical Review: 07/20/2012
Last Revised: 07/20/2012