Welcome to this page! If you have read Tyson's Sad Bad Day to your child I hope you have already been able to open a conversation about death and grief.
You may still be wondering how to handle discussing death with your daughter or son, especially if you have experienced a recent death in your family or community.
I have consulted with several qualified people, experienced in dealing with children. Not all of them have responded yet, so keep checking for added information.
The Forum page has been set up to dialogue with each other on the topic. Perhaps you want to share your experience to help others--what worked in your family and what didn't work.
Jenny Jutzi, B.Th., B.A.(Social Work), R.S.W., O.A.T.R., C.T.S.
Registered Art Therapist, Clinical Trauma Specialist
Says that children need to know how to cope with loss. They should not be protected from experiencing grief. Exposing them to other losses, such as a loss of a pet will be good preparation for a more significant loss.
Children may feel frightened and insecure because they sense the grief and stress of others; they may feel powerless to help. Children need to be given the truth and it is good to involve them in a way that is appropriate to their level and understanding. Encourage their assistance in the plans if appropriate, such as, choosing photos for the funeral home and flowers to display.
A child’s grief may not be easily recognized because they tend to express their feelings of grief through behaviour rather than words. For example, they may have a hard time sleeping at night, may have a sore tummy, may cry a lot, may feel lonely or abandoned, have bad dreams, feel anxious or worry that they or someone else will die too. They may be afraid of things that they weren’t frightened about before or they may be extra cuddly wanting reassurance.
Let the child know that it is okay to feel and do these things as it is all a part of the grief they are experiencing. Encourage them to talk about the hurt so that they can begin to feel better. Encourage closure.
When someone dies, children often worry about themselves and others dying. Encourage the child to trust that they will be taken care of. Providing assurance that no one will leave them may be needed for a short time after the death.
Sometimes a child will blame themselves for the person’s death. They will rationalize that it is their fault, that they could have done something to have kept that person alive. Assure the child that what happened to cause the person to die was not their fault...they are not to blame.
As much as possible, maintain the same routines (ie morning and bed time routines, meals, chores…) you had before as a child needs a sense of safety and predictability.
Draw on your spiritual beliefs to bring comfort and provide a sense of hope and assurance.
Actively share memories of the person that died for memories keep the person alive in our hearts and souls. Encourage the child to form memories of their own so that the person who died can always be a part of them. For example, make a scrapbook about the person that died, place a framed picture in their room, write a poem about the person who died, visit their grave, say a prayer, plant a tree or flower in their honor, talk about them, keep something of theirs in a special place, draw a picture of a special time with them. Help them in this process by going through the scrapbook with them, reading some of your own memories to them or showing them something that used to belong to them and telling a memory connected with it.
Ms Jutzi suggests the following ways to explain to your child the ending of life as we know it: