When we lose a loved one, it can sometimes be too painful to discuss the loss let alone discussing the loss with children.
Death is an inescapable certainty of life, and, unfortunately, both adults and children must understand and find ways to cope with it. Most experts believe that it is vital that individuals have a deeper awareness about death and treating death as a “taboo topic” can do more harm by enhancing loneliness, fear, and grief.
Opening up on the topic of death, and communicating about losing someone, is an important part of the healing process, yet sometimes an uncomfortable, and sensitive topic – so how do we talk to kids about the loss of a loved one?
To begin, the understanding of death often depends on the child’s age, so it’s vital to keep in mind that they will have their own interpretation of it – for instance, a very young child may view death as temporary. The conversation will also depend on our own experiences, religious beliefs, feelings, and the circumstance which the death occurred.
It’s important to recognize the psychological and emotional aspect of discussing death, and ensure we are providing clear and understandable information appropriate for their development level, and most importantly be ready to provide answers to their questions and repeat as necessary.
In addition to feeling confused, scared, or sad, children can often feel guilty and/or angry when they lose a close family member, and how we talk about death can comfort, shed light, and provide them much needed peace of mind.
A vital message when talking about death is offering what most children need – the reassurance that they have been, and will continue to be loved and cared for.
Even though we cannot have all the answers and explanations to provide children, and this discussion may greatly be influenced by our own environments, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds, and catered to the psyche of each individual child, we should always strive to be honest and compassionate during this time.
Another important aspect of talking about death with children is being open and prepared to answer their questions.
A child needs to feel that he or she has our permission to talk about the loss of a loved one and should feel that you are sincerely interested in their views – so encourage them to open up by listening attentively, respecting their thoughts on the subject, and answering their questions honestly.
Different children will cope with death or express their feelings differently, but they all need their loved ones, to be caring, sympathetic and nonjudgmental, so they can receive the proper support and understanding that they need through this difficult time.
Most experts recommend that children should be encouraged to attend the funeral but should never be forced to do so.
Some families are uncertain if children should attend funerals or other forms of ceremony to honor the deceased. Funerals and memorial services provide a valuable purpose, as they help the living pay tribute to, accept and cope with the loss of a loved one.
If the child is old enough to understand and wants to be included, being able to say good-bye to a loved one often helps them accept the reality of death, while having the support of family and friends. However if they prefer not to attend, they should not be forced or made to feel guilty.
If a child is to be included in the funeral service, it’s wise to make them aware of what will occur before, during, and after it. Children should be talked to in advance about different ways that people may expressing their emotions, including crying, and answer any questions they may have. A useful tactic is to sometimes involve the children in the funeral ceremony such as, having them hand out memorial folders or prayer cards to guests which will keep the children occupied, allows them to feel included and most importantly creates memorable and meaningful memories that will last a lifetime.
While family and friends are vital components for grieving children, sometimes they cannot provide the appropriate support needed for children due to their own grief. Families are encouraged, if needed, to seek professional support, such as counseling, as well as utilizing grief support groups.
At DeBord Snyder Funeral Home & Crematory we believe in providing families who are experiencing grief with compassionate care and service before, during and after the funeral, and are here to help you during those difficult times.
For more information about how DeBord Snyder Funeral Home & Crematory or to answer any additional questions, we invite you to contact us today. (717) 394-4097