Monday, August 11, 2014

Discussing Death

As a parent, I know that I would do anything to protect my children from hurt.  I can't.  We all get hurt.  My own children have experienced loss (way too much for their young ages), but with each loved one lost, I have learned more about the questions they have.  Guess what?  I don't have all of the answers.  If I wasn't feeling bad enough about the inability to protect them from it, at least I should be able to provide the answers to their questions.  Right? Today I give all parents permission to relieve yourself from this pressure.  You are probably grieving, too.  Just do your best.  I'm going to share a few things I have learned over time, and then offer some books to assist with this challenging topic.

Below are some questions that I've had to attempt to answer.  My hope is to forewarn you so you can feel successful with some answers.

1.  On cremation..."How did grandpa get so small?  When I die won't I still be big?" - I honestly googled to "how to explain cremation to young children".  Think about your words/language you choose prior to responding.  You do not want to make this scarier than it already is.

2.  On disease and/or chronic illness..."Will I get that too?" or you may see worries from children that this will happen to one of their parents.  Depending on the age of the child, you can explain a little about genetics.  But most importantly, take the opportunity to focus on a healthy lifestyle, regular check-ups, and caring for a loved one.  Hopefully they have experienced the power of empathy.  During illness families come together and help their loved one.  I don't think you need to 'hide' this from children...let them participate in caring for a loved one.  Our children need to be empathetic.

3.  On suicide..."Why?  What happened? Didn't he/she love me?" - This will be almost impossible to answer.  After a suicide, it is important to discuss with children mental health and ways they can seek support during any of life's bumps.  This conversation may need to be revisited so that you can ensure that your children know who to go to when they feel down.  The reassurance that 'yes, you were loved' by that person will also be needed.

4.  On experiencing grief and it's feelings..."Did he cry?  Did she cry?  Why or why not?" -  If the death is close to home, as an adult you can explain and understand the variety of responses to it.  Help your children remain empathetic to all, and explain to them varied grief responses.  It's ok to be sad and cry for days.  It's ok to be angry.  It's ok to laugh, and share funny memories.  This is another challenge as kids are focused on their own feelings, and possibly believe all should respond in kind.  All grief responses are ok, as long as no one is getting further harmed by one's response.

The following are some children's books on death.  Sometimes, letting a book do the talking for you is the best solution for all.  

  • Someone I Loved Died - by Christine Harder Tangvald
  • The Invisible String - by Patrice Karst
  • Samantha Jane's Missing Smile - by Julie Kaplow & Donna Pincus
  • The Next Place - by Warren Hanson
  • Pancakes With Papa - coming soon!  by Dena Albergo Jayson
  • Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss - by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen

Keep it simple...and be there for your kids.  ♥D

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