Losing a parent can be a grief that compares to no other. There are so many arrangements to occur in such a short period of time. Depending on how your parents handled their final arrangements, their may be extra added stresses and answers needed days after their death. However, often times when we lose our parents we are parents ourselves, having very confused children who are asking a lot of hard questions. Should children attend the funeral? How much information should a child hear about the death of a loved grandparent? How do we talk to our children about death?
The first rule to talking to your children about death is to not lie to them. Death is a natural part of life, and unfortunately your children will be exposed to it. Even as young as two or three, your children will see images of death on television, at least once a day, see insects die, animals at the side of the road, and begin to ask questions. Where do the animals go after death? How can you no longer exist?
Unfortunately, my family has experienced a lot of death through out our lives together. However, I take great pride in how my parents told me about losing my grandparents, and showing me that their life did not end in death. My parents explained to me that my grandparents “body” was gone, but that their soul was energy and that they will be with me forever. If I wanted to talk to them, I could in my mind, and that their energy was always around me. When I die, I would see them in heaven and become one with them.
Children will question the tears of others when they cry months, maybe years after their missing parent. I found that it is easier to allow the other parent; the parent who did not currently lose a father or a mother speak to the child. If you are in a relationship where you are married with children, the other spouse should take the reins, give the mourning spouse some time, and explain to the child that everyone misses their grandparent because we love them. If you are a single parent with no help, then gently speaking to your children about your grief would suffice.
A big tip that I would like to share if you believe that your lost ones go to a higher realm of existence is to plant a tree or plant in their memorial. Getting your children involved in this gives them a physical symbol that life continues. This is ideal if the tree or plant is in your backyard. The child can see the plant or tree grow and see that life never ends, it just takes new forms. From the stage of an acorn to a gigantic oak, the acorn is gone, but has now taken on a new brilliant form, just like their grandparents. Let your child take part in choosing a tree or plant, and give them the partial responsibility of its maintenance. Whether it be helping to rake the leaves in the fall, or water the plant every morning, or helping to prune the plant, a child will love the responsibility of the connection with his or her grandparent, and take great care in the plants preservation and growth.
To my readers, I hope you have never experienced watching someone die. However, if you have, you would know, it is very traumatic. Many hospitals do not permit children visiting the dying unless it is insisted. Small children should just receive a phone call from the dying patient; this will allow them to speak to their grandparent but not have to see everything that is going on. If your child must come, make sure to prepare them on what they are about to see.
Children should be prepped for a funeral. Explain the process of a funeral to your child. Recently funerals are not the three to four day drawn out service, but are becoming much shorter. If your child does go, they will ask a lot of questions. Be sure to answer them honestly, but short and sweet. We must respect the other mourners but allow our child to understand the whole concept. If your child does not want to go to the funeral, one should never guilt them into going. Even small children know their limits, and they are little people with their own minds, and we must respect that.
Always remember that your child will mourn in his or her own way. There are a few steps to always remember about a child in mourning:
- Your child is an individual with independent thoughts that may not mimic your own.
- Your child will ask questions, and they should be answered kindly but honestly.
- Assure your child that their grandparents are always with them, and they love them dearly.
- Assure your child its okay to cry and talk about it if they are sad.
- Give your child the respect to mourn as well. They are little human beings.
- Have them talk about it, or write it down, or draw pictures if you sense they are bottling things up.
The hard topic of death rears almost all of us in an uncomfortable state. However, it is important to realize that your loved one’s body is gone, not their energy. Their life continues, but in a different form. They will always be around us, guiding us throughout life, and we will see them again one day, but you can feel them at any time, if you open your heart and mind. Remember, as the transition of a little acorn becomes a huge Oak tree, the acorn is no longer with us, but has taken on a new brilliant form.