Compare today with 1900.
In 1900 children were expected not to survive birth, and even the mother’s life was suspect of being destroyed in the process.
Today however children are not supposed to die, and most do not – Thank God – but still hundreds of children die everyday.
- It reverses the “natural” order to things. Children are supposed to survive their parents
- The guilt issue looms high on the horizon because children are so helpless and to be cut down by death so young is heartbreaking.
- All the hopes and dreams of the parents for the child evaporate.
What I say?
- Tell them honestly how you feel. If you feel a loss of words tell them.
- Be humble and gentle.
- Remember nothing said in word form will change or alleviate the situation.
- The truth is life will never be the same again.
- Do not try to be profound, even Billy Graham said he was at a loss for words when he was confronted with a child’s death.
What about the other children?
- It is true that children are stronger than adults give them credit for.
- Tell the children the truth.
- Truth is your ally.
- Children have built in lie detectors and they can sense and feel when things are being kept from them. They want to be included.
Things to be sensitive to in dealing with children:
- A child’s attention span is not as long as an adult’s.
- Remember to treat the child as normally as possible.
- Do not allow the child’s life routine to be interrupted as to make them feel insecure. Get up at the same time, eat at the same time etc.
- Be sensitive that a child’s reaction to death is on a different level of complication as is an adult’s – example: a child might actually be relieved that a sibling has died so that they will not have to share a bedroom.
Value of Rite, Rituals and Ceremonies:
- When words fail people use rituals.
- Rituals are actually the language of most children – we call is Play.
- Encourage the family to hold the dead child, comb the hair, help dress the child – if they wish.
- Encourage the siblings to draw pictures and help describe their feelings.
NO ONE IS PERFECT;
Remember going through the process of grief is more important than going through is perfectly. Go easy on everybody for everybody is basically in the same boat. Let mistakes go and do not make a big deal about what this person said or did.
Should children go to funerals?
Yes, if they want to. No if they protest.
Remember children love to be involved with family happenings whether they understand all the nuances of the activities or not. A child is not expected to understand all the complexities of marriage in order to march down the aisle as a ring bearer or a flower girl at a wedding.
Explaining death to children:
Well this is a big ticket item because most every adult on the face of the earth does not totally understand death themselves. However here are some suggestions:
- Answer only the questions the child asks and keep it short and simple.
- Yes or no answers are usually the best. “Do dead people get hungry?” “No.” Do dead people smell food?” “No.”
- Go easy on explanations. Often times adult’s love to talk and talk and talk, and often times their children have tuned them out minutes ago and are not hearing anything the adult is babbling about.
It is just as important for the parents to talk to their children about death as it is to talk to them about sex. Life and death – they simply go hand in hand.