At times of grief, it is hard to tell a child or even, for that matter, any loved one that someone has died.
At times like these, people try to keep it together and stay strong for everyone around them.
Revealing to children that a parent or grandparent has passed over, or even worse case is when they have witnessed their passing. No words can console them or take away the emotions and heartbreaking memories of that person.
Should the children see you trying to resuscitate the person, they still pass away after all the effort taken to revive them, can be very traumatic.
Those children will keep seeing images of the person battling death and the efforts made to revive them.
Death can have a massive impact on children, and sometimes a huge void is left. Most times, they never got to say goodbye.
Death can affect children just as much as adults. They can experience different stages and conflicting feelings, such as anger, sadness, numbness, guilt, fear, confusion, and denial.
There is no ‘right time’ to tell a child. Each child is different from their understanding of what dying means and their ability to cope with it. It is essential to find out exactly what they understand and know so that you can clarify in a way that makes sense to them.
Here are 11 tips to help you talk about death with your children:
1. Tell the truth as the truth gives you an explanation for your pain and tears.
2. Being open and emotional can help children to understand and learn to mourn.
3. Accept children’s emotional reactions until you can address things to help them process the initial trauma. Acknowledge that children grieve in their own way, even if it is in silence and isolation.
4. It is recommended that you use the words dead or died, as research has shown that using realistic words to describe death helps the grieving process.
5. Gauge how much information the children can process at one time. You will understand how much, based on the questions they ask.
6. Feel comfortable saying, ‘I don’t know,’ as having all the answers is never easy, especially during this time. Sometimes it is helpful to tell them that you do not have all the answers.
7. Prepare children what they will see at the service or the funeral home, such as the casket or the body.
8. It is healthy to cry together, as it helps the healing process.
9. Allow children to participate in rituals by picking the clothing, song, or the photos for the memorial.
10. Talk and prepare children what the future will be without their loved ones.
11. It’s essential to remember to take care of yourself in the process as well. Children learn what they see.
Grief can be overwhelming, and it may seem like those nothing will ever be the same again. Grief does change over time. The sense of loss may not diminish, yet it does become more bearable.
Dealing with grief directly and honestly is a great gift to offer children and one of the best ways to respect a loved one’s memory.