I decided to write this article because I was up very late last night with my son as he cried over the loss of our dog. The thing is, our dog died a few years ago but a picture of him surfaced and my son started to cry and ask why Scooby had to die. As a parent there is nothing more that I want than for my son to always be happy and never feel pain, well, that’s not realistic and so I have had to find ways to help him cope with loss and explain death to him. I hope that you find some of these tips useful in approaching your children when it comes to such a difficult topic.
* First, you should try to stay calm and not be overly emotional as you speak with them about this very difficult topic. If we are too emotional then our reaction to their pain may be exaggerated or numb. Being sad in front of your children is ok, be authentic and honest about your feelings.
*You should be there to support them by listening and comforting them and accept the feelings that they are having.
*Be honest and use words that are simple and direct such as “death” instead of “sleep”, since children interpret things literally and might become confused with other phrases.
*Help them express their emotions with art, music, reading books or playing games.
*Realize that children will ask over and over about what happened and why. It’s how they process information and how they make sure that the situation has not changed. Be patient and kind as they try to sort all of this out.
*Give them information about what’s next and what they should expect. If they feel comfortable enough you can give them a role so that they can be involved in a ritual or a memorial.
*Finally, give them time to heal, grief is a process and it takes time. If you have more than one child then know that the time it takes one child may be different than another.
These are just some of the ways that have helped me approach such a difficult topic with my son. I know that I cannot take away the hurt but I can help him understand it and help him feel secure and loved by being there for him in this difficult time. If your child is acting out or you are having difficulty managing your emotions as well as theirs then please seek out professional help. Support groups or private sessions with a trained professional may be very useful in helping you both get past the pain and deal with the loss.