Having to enter into the sad and lonely world of grief is one thing, but having to manoeuvre those waters with children is quite another. Life has a way of moving us along doesn’t it? Alarms to wake us out of deep sleep and shuffle us into our daily routines. Kids off to school, adults off to work and everyone meeting up at day’s end. Then it happens one day out of the blue. Someone we love dies. Everything we know about our regular routine halts in the blink of an eye. As the adult we immediately become consumed with details and arrangements all while trying to be a functioning parent. Then it hits you…… How do I tell the kids.
I recently listened to a stand up comedian who lost his wife to cancer explain how that was the second worst day of his life. He went on to explain that the worst day of his life was having to tell their daughter that her mother was gone. Death, loss and grief are a completely different world for children, and people can panic when dealing with them. It will not be easy. It will pull at all of your heart-strings. There will be days of anger and fear. Loss has a way of making us as adults feel vulnerable, so its natural for a child to feel the same way. I have compiled a simple list of do’s and don’t’s to try to keep it simple.
Tell the child immediately about a death or loss to prevent them from hearing it from someone else. Use a regular voice, whispering can seem spooky to young children.
Tell the truth about how you feel, it will give them a sense of security to open up about their feelings.
Be patient and give your child time to form their own opinions about death and loss. Keep encouraging them to talk.
Always listen without judgement or criticism.
Explain what occurs during funerals or wakes and allow them to make the decision to attend.
Keep talking about all the good memories shared with the loved one who has passed. This is very important.
Do express your feelings, even your sadness. This will encourage your child to not hide their feelings.
Don’t tell your child to “not feel scared.” Fear is the most common emotion to loss for both children and adults and is completely normal.
Avoid asking your child how they are feeling. Like us, they will be fearful of being judged or putting too much on your plate and respond with “I’m fine.”
Don’t act strong for your child. They will think this is behaviour they are supposed to copy.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Rather than saying, “everything will be ok” try saying “we will get through this together.”
Always remember, children are much smarter than we give them credit for. Treat them with the same respect and dignity you would expect.
Most important, just be there with unlimited amounts of love and support.
The struggles that families face during loss are devastating. Many times as the days and months pass by we forget to check in with each other. Don’t forget the importance of that. You do not have to be afraid or awkward to call up your friend, sister or brother-in-law and ask them how things are going. I promise you they are lonely and feel isolated because people will avoid them. They want to talk about their loved ones. Yes, their children want you to still talk about their Moms and Dads and Grandfathers. This is one of the biggest misconceptions of grief. People think that once a person dies we should never speak of them again because the people grieving will fall apart. We need to stop being afraid. Talk about the great memories and laugh together, especially with our children. That is great healing.
Much Love ❤