7 Ways To Explain Death To A Grieving Child

During tonight's 'Teen Mom OG' episode, Farrah comforted her daughter Sophia when the duo visited Derek's grave.

Through the years, Farrah has openly mourned the loss of Derek (her late boyfriend and the father of Sophia) and worked tirelessly to keep his memory alive for herself and their little girl. During tonight's heartbreaking episode of "Teen Mom OG," the mother-daughter duo visited his grave during a visit to Missouri -- but when they were en route to the cemetery, Sophia repeatedly uttered a difficult-to-hear statement. Specifically, she implied that she wanted to be with her father, which understandably made Farrah very upset.

"It makes Mommy sad," the 24-year-old stated as she wiped away her tears. "When you say you want to die to see him, it really makes Mommy sad. Do you know it hurts Mommy when you say those things?"

While Sophia never knew her "daddy Derek," it's evident that she feels an immense amount of sorrow for him and misses him tremendously -- and it's imperative to give Sophia's comments during the car ride a bit of context.

“The important thing to remember is that, at any age, there isn’t a single, normal way to grieve,” says Courtney Knowles, a spokesperson for The Jed Foundation, a national nonprofit that promotes emotional health among teens and young adults. “Like any difficult emotional challenge, it’s important not to push those reactions and feelings down, but to communicate openly and create the support system and plan that leads to acceptance and healing.”

Meanwhile, The Moyer Foundation -- whose mission is to provide comfort, hope and healing to children affected by loss or addiction -- explains that grief is a natural and normal response to death. Grief is comprised of many different emotions, thoughts and behaviors and is a lifelong process -- and childhood grief is more common than most people realize. A few key stats to keep in mind, provided to MTV News by the nonprofit organization:

1. One in seven American children will experience the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 20. (Statistics from Greenwald & Associates for New York Life Foundation and Comfort Zone Camps)

2. 1.5 million children in the U.S. are grieving the death of a parent. (2008 U.S. Census)

3. 90% of students will experience the loss of a family member or close friend before finishing high school. (Ewalt & Perkins)

While Farrah has made it clear to Sophia that her father is no longer alive, there are several ways to explain death to children. The Moyer Foundation -- as well as OUR HOUSE, a grief support center in Los Angeles -- outlined seven key suggestions:

1. Explain the immediate cause of death simply and honestly rather than using euphemisms or giving a philosophical or religious interpretation.

Instead of stating, “God took your father because he was a good man” or “Your Dad is visiting heaven," say, “Your father died of a disease called cancer.”

2. Offer reassurance about their worries.

Children who lose a loved one often fear for themselves or the lives of other family members. Communicate openly and honestly with children, and clarify that “most people live ‘til they are very old.”

3. Offer reassurance that they are not to blame for the death.

Many times, children believe that they “caused” the death because of acting out or arguing or wishing harm. Clearly point out that this does not cause someone to die.

4. Use correct terminology when explaining what happens to the body when someone dies.

In straightforward language, express that the person’s body has stopped working, that the person has died, and that they won’t be coming back. Explain the process for burial or cremation and make it clear that the person cannot feel any pain.

5. Develop a plan.

Be sure that children know who will care for and love them should something happen to you.

6. Include children in family mourning rituals.

Explain what they can expect to happen during the ritual and ask them if there is anything special that they would like to say or do. Have a nurturing adult there to support them and answer any questions they might have.

7. Accept children’s feelings about the death.

Children often have a wide range of emotions after a death, and they grieve differently from adults. Developmentally, they can only handle small amounts of pain at a time; therefore, they may be openly sad one moment and happily playing the next. This is normal behavior, especially for younger children.

If you would like more information about dealing with a loss, or to find resources for getting help, please visit HalfofUs.com.