Is your child a curious individual who just wants to know the answers to why? Here are some tips for talking about death with your children and loved ones.
It’s impossible to know how you’ll react to grief until it hits you.
If you have children, the added responsibility of talking about death with a broken heart can be overwhelming.
What is the best way to handle the situation so that your feelings and your children’s’ feelings are spared?
The best way to prepare yourself is to plan ahead using these top tips for talking about death with your loved ones.
Grieving parents don’t always have the emotional capacity to handle a conversation about death. The best time to have the conversation is before you actually lose someone close to you.
If the child has a pet, you might start explaining death by talking about the life cycle of the animal. Children understand birth very easily so you can begin by discussing how the child’s pet came into existence.
Get creative with the analogies that feel right for your child’s interest. Younger children won’t be able to grasp complex intellectual or spiritual concepts related to dying.
When you explain death in the absence of trauma, you maintain control over the situation and give your child a chance to ask questions with your full attention.
To adults, young children are carefree and adventurous accepting new ideas with ease. But most preschools and elementary schools have daily routines that help them feel secure.
Knowing ahead of time when its time to sit down and listen to a book is a small understanding that makes a big difference for children. When you talk about death with your child, explain the rituals that come along with it.
Knowing funeral rituals will bring familiarity to the grieving process. It also helps children find a guideline on how to join in on practices like singing hymns or saying special prayers for loved ones.
Talk through the funeral ceremony so there are no surprises especially with seeing adults they love crying for the first time. Your child might ask not to view the body during a processional or request to sit next to another family member they are close to.
Allow them to process the funeral ritual on their own terms to soothe their grieving.
Explain New Changes
There are times with losing someone close changes the child’s life in an impactful way. For example, if the child’s teacher dies.
You can explain to the child how the school will likely handle the transition and offer some ideas on how to get to know a new teacher. Ask what they most look forward to about the situation and what makes them most afraid.
Heading off fears with helpful suggestions is a great way to put the child at ease. Don’t expect an immediate resolution to all of the child’s concerns.
There will be unavoidable hurt and discomfort but if your child knows you are with them every step of the way, they are more likely to have confidence they can endure it.
Avoid inserting your own opinion about how the child should feel about the new routine. It’s possible, to be honest without coloring the new circumstances with your own doubt and grief.
The same is true when offering a positive outlook. Don’t make promises about the future you can’t keep.
Help Children Remember
Help children remember that grief isn’t the process of letting go of loved ones after they die. It’s the process of finding peace that they are no longer with you.
When your family grieves together, encourage your children to create stories and draw pictures of the person you want to remember. Talk about the person’s life including what the loved, didn’t like and your favorite memory of them.
The positive feelings that come from this sharing help heal grief in a healthy way.
Don’t Put Time Limits on Grief
Grieving brings on strong emotions children can’t always describe or process right away. It’s impossible to assure them the grieving process will be over soon.
Never limit how long they can cry about a loved one or friend. You might miss a few mornings of school or dinners in the evening.
If you’ve informed teachers ahead of time, they will know that the child is in the middle of grieving and allow them space to recover. It’s important to let your child know that you also don’t know how long you’ll grieve.
They might begin feeling better before you and it is perfectly natural for two people to love someone but show it in different ways. The amount you cry or don’t cry, won’t add or subtract from your love for them.
Share in Doses
Teens and younger children won’t handle grief in the same way. The added frustrations that come with puberty can make reactions more intense when teenagers grieve.
If your teen doesn’t react well, share information about the death in doses. Your job is to guide them through the full realization of this major life change but not all at once.
You want to guide them gently without pushing them into isolation. It’s important to keep your teen close so you can see how their sadness affects their outlook on their own mortality.
Strong emotions like sadness often push teens toward feelings of depression or suicide. As a parent, you need to encourage them while allowing them the opportunity to express extreme emotions without feedback.
It’s Not Too Late to Start Talking About Death
Children of all ages need someone to show them what to do when grief hits them full force. Parents who hide their emotions and don’t talk about death prevent children from seeing a healthy way to process sadness.
Encourage your children by crying out loud and talking about death. Don’t hide your tears or stop talking about the subject when they enter the room.
Grief is a natural part of living that, when done right, helps you grow together as a family. For information on cremation services, please contact us today.