Are you faced with the difficult task of helping your children deal with the death of a loved one, friend, or animal? Here are some things to consider as you take on this task.
Death is never an easy subject. It doesn’t matter how old we get, the concept of death is scary. Kids are curious about this. The first time they realize that someone close to them is gone, it will shake their world. As a mommem, I believe it’s important to help them in any way I can. It is crucial to approach this issue with sensitivity.
I lost my Grandma and my Granny this year…within 2 months of each other. My kids lost their great-grandmothers. It’s been very tough to deal with.
Here are some things to consider if you have to help your children deal with death:
Prepare your kids for it
First of all, if you know that someone in your family is about to die, try to prepare your kids. It is important that they have a chance to say goodbye. This has helped me tremendously in the loss of both of my grandmothers. If this is too hard for you, Dad may need to help you talk to the little ones. The last thing I would want to do is make them more upset. Once they know what lies ahead, it can help them to begin processing what will happen.
Explain what death is
If your kids have never had to deal with death before, it’s important to explain what death is and why it happens. Remember that your kids may have a whole lot of questions. You should prepare yourself for this before talking to them. Be patient and tell them the truth.
Avoid using euphemisms
Often, when parents tell their kids what death is, they tend to use euphemisms. For example, you might say that the person is ‘going to sleep’ or ‘moving to a better place.’ While I believe that dying does mean going to a better place, when we use these phrases, it can confuse children. Kids take things literally. When you tell your children that someone has gone to sleep, it makes them think that they will wake up again. This phrase can be misleading. Instead, try to be as straight with them as possible. It’s important to tell them what’s happened and be clear.
Be clear about why this happened
Often, young children will ask why people die. That in itself is a hard question to answer, and we have to be careful about what we say. The last thing you want to do is leave things unclear. Kids need to know that everyone dies and that it is a natural part of life. It is hard to understand why it happens, but we have to be thankful for the time we had with our loved ones. You might find that your kids cry when you explain this issue to them. It’s a natural reaction. Talking about this will help both of you process what has happened.
Let them help with the funeral
When you have small children, you might think that the funeral is too much for them to cope with at a young age. Kids are much more resilient than we could ever imagine. Many people agonize about whether they should let their kids come to the funeral or not. The truth is that there is no right answer. If you want to help your kids get some closure, taking them to the funeral might not be a bad idea. You could let them hold flowers or find another way to let them participate.
Visit the grave as a family
Many parents won’t let their kids go to the graveyard with them. If you want your children to have closure, though, this step is important to consider. You may wish to visit the grave together. Your kids can choose some flowers and take them along with them. That way, they play an active role in the visiting process. If you stop kids from taking part in these rituals, it may confuse them. Rather than pushing your kids away, consider allowing them to join in.
Let your children grieve
Finally, the most important thing you need to remember is that you should let your kids grieve. Our kids are just like us. They need time and space to adapt. The grieving process is different for everyone. Although we want to protect our children, we have to make sure we don’t push our kids to “get over it.” This will only make things worse in the long run. Let your children have time. With time, it will get better.
Protect their inheritance
If your relative leaves property to your children, they most likely went through an estate planning process. In most cases, that means that they chose a trustee to take care of the property until the kids are of legal age. You should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Once you know the facts, it puts you in a better position to have age-appropriate conversations with your children, when you think it’s necessary.
Share memories together
There is one important part of the grieving process that we cannot ignore – honoring the memory of our loved ones. Share fond memories together. You can look at old photo albums and remember the great times you all had. You should encourage your kids to speak about their feelings. In doing so, you let them be as open with you as they would like to be. If you stick together, though, you can get through this time.
Death is a hard fact of life to process and cope with. There are no right answers or one-size-fits-all solutions. You know your children better than anyone and have to consider their ages, maturity level, and your level of comfort in dealing with all of this. I hope some of these suggestions will be helpful to you and your children.
Have you ever had to deal with this? What other advice would you give?