Doctors today have documented evidence to demonstrate that grieving can, in fact, make children sick. Health issues such as skin problems, cardiovascular disease and even cancer can often track their onset to a painful event translated as grief. Traumatic loss is so abhorrent to the mind that children often have difficulty coping. Children today have […]
Doctors today have documented evidence to demonstrate that grieving can, in fact, make children sick.
Health issues such as skin problems, cardiovascular disease and even cancer can often track their onset to a painful event translated as grief. Traumatic loss is so abhorrent to the mind that children often have difficulty coping.
Children today have numerous opportunities to distract themselves from grieving properly; i.e. video games, computers and television. In my book, The Only Way Out is Through, I share some insight into working through grief. Here are some tips for parents and caregivers to help children deal with grievances in a healthy manner.
Tips for Nurturing Bereaved Children
Grieving children must get plenty of rest, eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water. Exercise is also very important; however, remember that fatigue is often a characteristic of both loss and depression.
Encourage a grieving child to express and vent shock, anger and fear. This will help the child stay connected to life and can re-establish trust in what has become an unsafe world.
Children should be allowed to participate in the rituals of saying goodbye. This will give them a sense of realty and closure to this unthinkable event.
Parents or caregivers of grief-stricken children should encourage their child to participate in weekly therapeutic groups with other children who have encountered the same kind of loss.
It’s difficult explaining death to a child, especially the loss of a relative. You might have questions about how to begin the conversation, or you might feel uncertain about what to say.
Naturally, you want to protect your child from feeling the same pain you are experiencing, but it is crucial that you speak honestly and openly about the situation.
Helping your child understand grief and loss is best for their emotional health and well-being.
Explaining Death to a Child
Children might not understand that death is permanent. They may ask questions like, “When is Mommy coming back?”
Although it may seem gentler to use phrases such as “passed away” or “went to sleep,” it can be confusing. Try to say terms like “dead” or “died” to help them understand better.
Share basic facts when you feel it is appropriate to help settle a child’s curiosity about death. It’s important to answer questions your child has simply and directly, and it’s OK to admit that you don’t have all of the answers. Try to remain concrete in your explanation by saying something like, “a person’s body stops working when they die.”
Even though older children may understand death better than younger children, it may still be difficult for them to know how it could happen to someone so close to them. That’s when it is essential to explain that death is a natural part of everyone’s life cycle.
Differences in Bereavement by Age
Bereavement differs for everyone, but at specific developmental stages in a child’s life, it can look notably different.
Babies/Toddlers: Although at this age, children might not have the language to say how and what they are feeling or have a complete understanding of death, they can still experience separation and loss. They may pick up on the distressful feelings of those around them.
Preschoolers: Children at this age might find it hard to grasp that death is permanent. They need a lot of reassurance because they are at a stage of magical thinking. They may believe that someone will come back to life again or that they made the person die.
Primary-School Children: At this age, children may still have some confused thoughts about death and may feel that is something temporary. They may also think that the person can still feel things like hunger or cold. They may ask direct questions about where the person is and what happened to them.
Older Children: By this age, children know that death is not temporary. They are more aware of how adults and others are reacting to death, so it’s important to talk honestly about events and feelings. They need regular reassurance that their grief is understood.
Adolescents: Teenagers may react like younger children or have reactions akin to those of an adult. They will probably want to spend more time with friends than with family for support. Their feelings may be overwhelming, and although they can appear to be fine, inside, they may be genuinely hurting or suppressing how they feel.
Emotions That Accompany Grief
There is no one right way to grieve. It’s common for children to express many emotions, just like adults, but they may express them differently.
They may feel shock, guilt, sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, loneliness, and helplessness. All of these feelings are normal. They may feel unpleasant, but they are all elements of the process of grieving.
It’s important to help your child accept how they are feeling and not push them away or deny their feelings. It’s painful to go through bereavement, but helping them connect with their emotions is a good step toward healing.
Ways to Help Kids Cope
Children need to know that they are not alone. Having support from family and friends and being able to talk to them can be very beneficial.
They may also need spiritual support if that helps them grieve better. You may want to seek counseling for your child to help them deal with their emotions and the loss.
Encourage children to read books or poetry when they are grieving. Motivate them to exercise, and make sure they are continuing to eat healthy foods. Allow them to take time to relax.
You and your child may need time away from work and school. Help your child to cope by engaging in social activities.
The most significant thing children can do to deal with death is to be patient with themselves and allow themselves to feel the emotions related to the loss.
Below are some helpful resources to assist with this very difficult matter.
Our boy Krypto’s 18-year-long poem ended early this month. He was on our porch on the nicest of Atlanta days, with just enough of a breeze to carry spring in for his last breaths. Our sons, Donovan and Tate, ages 13 and 11, whispered weepy gratitude into his ears as he slipped away. A good death for a good boy — a working dog, and his work, as they say, was done.
Much of that work involved needing an ultramarathoner’s worth of exercise, but that kept the IPAs from adding territory to my gut. Krypto also herded other animals and sometimes people, did some occasional protection detail and set the stage for us becoming a family.
The other great work of his life was teaching. He taught my wife and me how to be parents, and he taught our sons the joys of unstructured play and the art of observation. Like Albus Dumbledore, he did his greatest educating in old age, showing our family how to live with infirmities and without self-pity, and in the end, how dying and dead are different things.
My wife, Sarah, and I believed that Krypto was the first great thing we did as a couple. The rescue outfit described the Australian cattle dog-mix puppy as “not much to look at and getting picked on by the other dogs because he was kind of a jerk.”
And he was indeed a hammerhead, early on escaping our yard and chasing a high school cross-country team until he caught the slowest kid. But he quickly responded to training and copious exercise. Krypto explored the north Georgia woods with us and was a witness to our engagement on the Benton MacKaye Trail. His squared-away self convinced us that we were qualified to repeat the experiment; this time with very small humans.
The pee on the pregnancy-test stick wasn’t dry before Krypto relocated his sleeping spot from the dog bed by my nightstand to the floor next to Sarah. He did the same thing when Donovan’s brother, Tate, came around two years later.
The books about dogs and babies urged us to bring a blanket home from the hospital so Krypto could familiarize himself with Donovan’s scent, followed by Donovan. Krypto was unimpressed.
Although Krypto was outwardly ambivalent, each time Sarah got up to nurse, he followed, sitting at her feet and facing the door, acutely keyed in to her vulnerability. He did so again with colicky Tate 2½ years later. The dog was working harder than ever but the boys moved him down in the pack order, just by virtue of being humans.
The transition from stinky, furious blobs to menacing, pokey toddlers to boys who just wanted to throw a ball or Frisbee all day long took dozens of dog years. Along the way, Krypto took down a prowler who came into the house while Sarah was upstairs reading to the boys. The perp was begging for mercy when I got to him, but Krypto greedily held his ankle. Good boy.
Not long after Donovan and Tate became full partners with Krypto, his interest in athletics began to wane. Cattle dogs tend to slow down around age 13 or so. We had a soft old couch that he’d made his own, and the boys liked to bounce on it and wake him for belly rubs or ear scratches. One day their protector snapped hard at them. He was sleeping more deeply and waking up anxious. It shook us up, but the boys were made aware that not everything in life can go at their speed. A little Prozac in Krypto’s kibble helped, too.
Krypto’s decline was the one we’re all hoping for: small increments over an extended period preceding a rapid crash, followed by permanent sleep. My sons received regular lessons in patience. Walks took a while so we had to leave earlier for school. Smell became more important to Krypto than locomotion, so the boys came to understand that a walk often meant standing around while he sniffed the world.
Krypto died with the lab work of a puppy; neurological failings were his undoing. Eventually, his front and back halves had trouble communicating, and he moved like a firetruck tiller with no one driving the back end. He needed help down the three steps to get outside. Cue my sons. They listened for Krypto by the door and were always ready to help him outside and wait patiently for him to find just the right spot before assisting him back up the stairs.
There were the requisite indignities and accidents. The boys helped him up and fetched the paper towels. “Krypto never seems to feel sorry for himself,” Tate said one day while doing exactly that over a pile of crap in the hallway. My sons were paying attention to these lessons.
In his last week, Krypto’s mobility cratered and his anxiety resisted the strongest tranquilizers. He kept us up half the night telling us it was time to let him go. I wanted him to die on his own terms but his mighty heart would not quit. Donovan and Tate heard their father blubber his way through explaining what would be our last measure of devotion.
(The surreal experience of watching one’s father cry uncontrollably has been compared to the first time you see Grandma in a bathing suit.)
Krypto taught my boys to accept decline and mortality, so they had no questions for our vet when she arrived with full eyes. The boys were with Krypto on the porch as the vet eased him from his mortal coil. They are different kids and handled the intense emotions in their own ways, but they were present, holding that dog as he left us, telling him how much he’d be missed.
They fell in love with a dog and, as the contract states, they had their hearts broken. They are better people for knowing him, loving him and losing him.
And in the end, my young men carried Krypto from the house for the last time. I have never been sadder or prouder.
Anne Brescia sat beside her only child, Anthony, as he lay unconscious in a hospital bed at age 16. Just a few months before, he was competing in a swim meet; now cancer was destroying his brain. Brescia couldn’t save her son. But she was determined to bring him home.
Anthony Gabriel Brescia-Connell was not conscious for his voyage from Boston Children’s Hospital to his home in Medford, Mass., where he died on March 3, 2011, surrounded by his family and beloved stuffed animals. He may not have heard the parting blessings before a doctor turned off his portable ventilator and let him die naturally.
But having the choice to take Anthony home, away from the beeping hospital monitors, “meant the world to me,” his mother said.
Anthony’s journey was made possible through swift and unconventional efforts by the hospital staff, including a critical care transport team accustomed to rushing kids to the hospital to save their lives, not taking them home to die.
The experience galvanized Harriett Nelson, a nurse on that team who helped arrange the trip. It inspired her to conduct pioneering research on and advocate for “pediatric palliative transport” — a rare but growing practice that aims to give families choice, control and comfort at the end of life.
Palliative transport lets families move critically ill children from the hospital intensive care unit to their home or hospice, with the expectation they will die within minutes to days after removing life support.
It means “having parents go through the hardest thing they’ll ever know — in the way they want to do it,” Nelson said. Boston Children’s has sent 19 children to home or hospice through palliative transport since 2007, she said.
These final journeys — also offered by the Mayo Clinic, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Kentucky Children’s Hospital — can involve elaborate planning, delicate transfers and even long helicopter rides. In some cases, families took a child far from home for a last-ditch effort to save their lives.
At the Mayo Clinic, palliative transport has helped culturally diverse families carry out end-of-life wishes for their dying children. In one case, a newborn girl rode 400 miles by ambulance to return to her Amish community, where she was extubated and died in her parents’ arms, in the company of her 11 siblings. In another, an 8-month-old Native American girl traveled 600 miles by air and ground ambulance to her rural tribal reservation, where she could participate in end-of-life rituals that could not be done in the hospital.
These trips, which can cost thousands of dollars, are typically offered free to families, paid for by hospitals or charities. Most children are taken home, where they transition to receiving care from hospice staff. Some go instead to hospice facilities.
Megan Thorvilson, a pediatrician and palliative care specialist at Mayo, said palliative transport aims to address a gap between families’ preference and reality.
Most parents of terminally ill children would prefer that their child die at home, but most of these children die in the hospital, most commonly in the intensive care unit. Most pediatric ICU deaths happen in a controlled way, following the removal of life support, she said. That means there may be time to move the child to an alternative location to honor a family’s wishes.
Transporting children on life support is risky. At a palliative care conference, a nurse from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia described the difficulties staff faced in trying to fly a 10-year-old girl home to Michigan. After she was rolled on her side several times to be transferred between vehicles, the child died before the plane could take off.
And dying at home is not what every family wants.
“We do sometimes overly romanticize the death at home,” Thorvilson acknowledged. Some parents would much rather have a child die in the hospital, with familiar nurses at the bedside for medical and emotional support. Some would rather keep this traumatic experience away from where they live.
Brescia, however, said she couldn’t bear to return home without her son.
A biologist who used to run an electron microscopy lab, Brescia wasn’t sure whether she and her husband, Brian Connell, would ever have children. Fertility treatments didn’t work. But on June 23, 1994, seven days before Brescia turned 44, she gave birth to a baby boy.
“Anthony is the love of my life,” said Brescia, who is now 68. “The OB/GYN put him on my chest and I really thought that my heart was going to burst.”
The mother-son bond was especially close: Brescia home-schooled her son for most of his life. Anthony grew to be 6 feet tall, full of curiosity. He loved identifying mushrooms, studied Arabic and oceanography, and aspired to go to MIT. He was an avid swimmer, competing on a team in Belmont, Mass.
One day in late 2010, while racing the backstroke, he became disoriented in the pool and was disqualified.
A neurologist prescribed rest. But over the next two weeks, Anthony grew only more tired and began to lose his balance. On Dec. 20, he was taken to Boston Children’s Hospital and diagnosed with a brain tumor.
The disease “came out of nowhere,” Brescia recalled. “He went from looking incredibly healthy and swimming like a healthy kid” to living at the hospital. At his bedside, she told him she’d bring him home to celebrate Christmas and eat stuffed shells.
His condition deteriorated quickly. The tumor could not be surgically removed. Anthony pushed through radiation and chemotherapy with the hope of going home, but the treatments failed. By late February 2011, the tumor began pressing on his brain stem, and fluid was building up in his brain.
Anthony was unconscious, relying on a ventilator to breathe. Brescia connected with the hospital’s palliative care team.
“I want to bring him home tomorrow,” Brescia told staff.
“I was scared to death he was going to have another incident,” she recalled. “I didn’t want them to do any more invasive procedures to reduce the pressure on his brain.”
Staff from the ICU, palliative care and transport teams scrambled to honor her request. The critical care transport team arranged for the use of its ambulance, a mobile ICU the size of a small bus.
The night before the trip, Brescia said goodbye in the privacy of Anthony’s hospital room.
“I don’t want to lose you,” she told him, holding his hands. “I’m going to let go. I want you to go where you need to be.”
On March 3, 2011, Brescia and her husband boarded the bus along with Anthony, a chaplain, two doctors, Nelson and a nurse from the ICU. They rode 10 miles to the family’s home, where Anthony was laid on a hospital bed in his living room, surrounded by his stuffed animals, on his favorite flannel sheets.
A pastor held a service for Anthony, and close family gathered to say goodbye. Then Brescia signaled for a doctor to disconnect the ventilator.
Anthony seemed to be at peace, Brescia said. After he died, she climbed into the bed with her son and held onto him for a while.
The death was still traumatic. But “it was really a gift to bring him home,” she said. “It was a significant act of compassion and kindness and love on the part of the Children’s staff.”
After Brescia’s experience, Nelson was inspired to offer the choice to more families.
First, she interviewed Brescia and other parents about whether palliative transport had a positive effect. All nine parents said it had. One family described holding a celebration when they brought their newborn baby home, even though he was about to die. They took family photos and used the nursery they had set up, establishing a brief sense of normalcy for four days before he died.
In her 14 years on Boston Children’s critical transport team, Nelson has found that parents benefit from palliative transport for various reasons: At home, they’re away from the noise of the hospital. They have control over who can visit. They feel more comfortable. And they don’t feel rushed after their child dies.
Nelson created a protocol that allows the hospital to offer palliative transport in a more routine way. Now, when children come to any of the hospital’s four ICUs, Nelson said, “we have the power to say, ‘You have a choice when it comes to the end of life.’ ”
The practice appears to be spreading.
After Lindsay Ragsdale, the physician who is director of the palliative care team at Kentucky Children’s Hospital in Lexington, presented her protocol for palliative transport at a conference last year, staff from 20 hospitals asked her to share her checklist, she said.
Mayo’s Thorvilson, who has worked closely on a half-dozen palliative transports, said it’s possible these last-minute trips from ICU to home could be avoided by earlier referrals to hospice, which might get kids home sooner. But when children with complex illnesses get sick, she said, “sometimes it’s hard to know whether this is just another bump in the road, or whether this is the natural end of the child’s life.”
“There’s something really unique about a child dying,” she said. “Everyone’s heart breaks, and we want to be able to do all that we can to be able to support the family in the midst of the tragedy.”
Eight years after Anthony’s death, his bedroom remains untouched, his socks still folded in his top drawer, swimming trophies on the cabinet, slippers under his chair. Pictures of him adorn every room in the house — on the fridge, the kitchen table, the living room stereo.
Looking through photos one recent morning of her son fishing and blowing out birthday candles, Brescia struggled to hold back tears.
“I couldn’t cure him,” she said. “I failed to protect him from a tumor — that’s how you feel. They did all they could. It wasn’t enough. Bringing him home was the best I could do.”
When our older daughter was 4, it seemed like she was asking us about death constantly. These questions were apropos of nothing; we hadn’t had a death in the family or lost a pet. What was jarring was her matter-of-fact tone. We’d be sitting at dinner and she’d ask a barrage of questions in a completely neutral voice: “When are you going to die? Is Grandma going to die first because she’s old?” And on and on. I tried to calmly match her tone and answer her honestly, but sometimes you just want to eat your salad without contemplating your own mortality.
At the time, I was slightly worried that there was something wrong with her — at best she was a proto-goth who would be really into the Cure as a teenager; and at worst, her questions meant she had some troubling anxiety that was emerging through a fixation on death. But when I started talking to other parents, I learned that their preschoolers were also asking tons of questions about death at awkward moments.
A lot of parenting questions boil down to: Is this a thing, or is something wrong? So I decided to start an occasional series explaining why certain things seem to happen to your kid (or to your body or your relationships) as your child grows. For this edition, I asked three psychologists, two of whom have done research on children and their understanding of death, about why preschoolers ask a lot of questions about death, and how to best answer them. If you have a question for a future “Is this a thing?” newsletter, email me here.
Why do kids start asking about death in preschool?
Preschool is the age of “why” in general, said Dr. Lauren Knickerbocker, Ph.D., a child psychologist at N.Y.U. Langone’s Child Study Center. And what adults sometimes don’t realize, because we’re inured to it, is that our kids are surrounded by death all the time: Cartoon characters die, the leaves on the trees die, an ant they smushed at the playground is dead.
Because they’re already so curious about the world, they see our reactions to their questions about death — our faces may blanch — and they pick up on that and want to dig deeper.
What do they understand about death at 4?
There are four subconcepts of death that psychologists have identified, explained Dr. Sally Beville Hunter, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor at University of Tennessee, Knoxville: nonfunctionality (your body doesn’t work anymore), universality (all living things die), irreversibility (once you die, you can’t come back to life) and inevitability (you can’t avoid death).
Though children pick up these concepts at different ages, depending on their cognitive abilities and their life experiences, at 4, the subconcept they tend to understand first is nonfunctionality, Beville Hunter said. Because it’s straightforward, many preschoolers can understand that when you’re dead, your arms and legs don’t move anymore, and your heart stops beating.
“We’re all gonna die” is something that’s a bit harder for a 4-year-old (or let’s be honest, a 37-year-old) to fully internalize. But according to Beville Hunter, many kids will understand all four subconcepts somewhere in the 7-10 age range.
How do I answer their many, many questions about death?
Do not use euphemisms. Children in the 3-6 age range have very concrete thinking, said Dr. Dunya Poltorak, a pediatric medical psychologist in private practice in Birmingham, Mich. If you say something like, “Grandpa passed away” instead of “died,” it may confuse your child. She may think, “Did they go away somewhere? Are they on a trip? Did they pass over the border into Canada? It can just potentially risk greater confusion and lack of understanding,” said Poltorak. So use the term “died,” even if it feels harsh.
Try to respond simply and clearly. Don’t brush off their questions even if they make you uncomfortable, said Poltorak. And you don’t need to get into too much detail with kids this age, said Beville Hunter. So for example, if your child asks you, “When are you going to die?” You can say, “I try to take very good care of myself and to be careful and plan to live a very long time until I’m quite old,” Poltorak suggested. If kids have follow-up questions, they will ask.
If your kids are endlessly curious about death in a nonanxious way, you can take them on a tour of a cemetery, Beville Hunter suggested. It’s something she did with her own children. “We went around and read the names on the gravestones, we did etchings, we looked at the numbers and talked about the age they were when they died,” Beville Hunter said. It opens up a space for your kids to get answers to many of their pressing questions.
If a kid is anxious about death, “I would assure them of safety, health and everything within your family dynamic, then I would try to redirect from there,” said Poltorak. Try classic distraction after addressing their questions clearly — let’s go paint! Or, why don’t we read a book? If a kid is really ruminating and you’re concerned because his anxiety is affecting his quality of life, talk to your pediatrician. Your child’s doctor may recommend a pediatric psychologist. “It’s always good to intervene young when children have anxiety,” Poltorak said.
When you have a death in the family, Knickerbocker and Poltorak both recommend that grieving children memorialize loved ones with art projects. They emphasized the concreteness of preschoolers’ thinking, so having something to work on like a scrapbook of memories of that person is helpful.
If your religious beliefs include an afterlife or resurrection like in the Easter narrative, again, try to address any questions straightforwardly. You don’t need to overexplain or answer questions that weren’t asked, said Beville Hunter. Poltorak, who is Catholic, said she talks to her children about heaven and tries to keep it light. Her father, who was very close to her children, died recently. He used to bring candy over to their house all the time, so Poltorak tells them, “Grandpa is probably up in heaven giving Jesus cavities.”
It’s not surprising that someone whose whole life revolves around words would turn to literature in a time of tragedy to make sense of her suffering. The paradox is that the person most likely to seek solace from words is also the most likely to realize their insufficiency.
One such person is the unnamed narrator of “Where Reasons End,” Yiyun Li’s new novel. The 44-year-old narrator is a writer of stories and a grieving mother. For reasons that are never explained, her 16-year-old son, whom she calls Nikolai, “a name he had given himself,” killed himself only a few months earlier — a painful parallel to real life, as Li’s own 16-year-old son committed suicide in 2017
The novel is a series of imagined conversations between mother and son. From the start, we learn that the mother is agonizingly self-aware, both of herself and of the possible futility of these conversations.
That and the parallel to Li’s life are what make the experience of reading this work so powerful: the knowledge that the narrator needs the comfort of words yet senses their limitations. “I was a generic parent grieving a generic child lost to an inexplicable tragedy,” she says in the opening chapter. She seeks specificity, the need to “meet in a world unspecified in time and space … a world made up by words, and words only.”
One of the most arresting aspects of this novel is the way in which Li subverts expectations. One might expect Nikolai to be a sweet boy offering relentless comfort to his grieving mother. He’s a charmer, all right, a precocious son who painted whimsical landscapes, played the oboe and liked classical music and showtunes. And he was a bad speller who labeled a folder of songs “Edith Pilaf.”
But he has a sardonic edge that keeps him from seeming too precious. When his writer mother tells him that so many people miss him, Nikolai says she’s succumbing to the lure of clichés and admonishes her with, “You promised that you would understand.” When he accuses her of wanting him to feel sad for himself, he adds, chillingly, “I’m not as sad as you think. Not anymore.”
The dialogues in “Where Reasons End” cover a wide range of topics. Mother and son discuss love and memory and whether those capacities really do keep people alive forever. They discuss the capriciousness of time. Nikolai chides her for her dislike of adjectives, which she defends by saying that nouns, not adjectives, preserve memories. Besides, “I oppose anything judgmental,” she says, “and adjectives are opinionated words.”
Much of this book is devoted to words, which is not surprising given that its narrator lives by them: “Words said to me. Words not meant for me but picked up by me in any case. Words in their written form. Words that make sense and words that make nonsense.” When one is in search of helpful words, poets are a good place to start, as their facility often crystallizes hard-to-express truths. Indeed, the narrator references many poets, including Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop — the novel’s title comes from Bishop’s poem “Argument” — and Wallace Stevens.
Even poets, however, provide limited comfort, and the mother depicted here knows it. This realization compounds her grief as much as it ameliorates. “Words provided to me — loss, grief, sorrow, bereavement, trauma — never seemed to be able to speak precisely of what was plaguing me,” she says. “One can and must live with loss and grief and sorrow and bereavement.”
Later, she adds, “We feel at a loss for words when they can’t do fully what we want them to.” To which Nikolai offers as wise a defense of words as one is likely to find. “They never can,” he says, but, “Why not make do with the percentage they can achieve?”
The book gets repetitive after a while — much is made of the Latin derivations of words, and some of Nikolai’s dialogue is too stilted even for a sophisticated teen — yet its message is nonetheless a sobering one. Nothing can ever fill the hollows formed by tragedy, yet the desire to fill them is every bit as keen as the loss. If even a fraction of the emptiness is replaced, then the quest is worth the effort.
Late in the novel, the narrator quotes Stevens’s poem “This Solitude of Cataracts”: “He wanted the river to go on flowing the same way, To keep on flowing.” Anyone who has ever lost a loved one — that would be all of us — will relate. If only they were still here to keep the river of our lives flowing as it once had.
“Everyone knows loss in one way or another. This song is about that,” Marcus Mumford says of Delta track
A young boy watches over his dying mother and fantasizes about better times with her in the video for Mumford and Sons’ new Delta single “Beloved.” The son and mother, who’s still wearing a hospital gown, run around, go shoplifting and ride horses on a beach. “Before you leave, you must know you are beloved,” Marcus Mumford sings against a serene backdrop of synths and guitars, “and before you leave, remember I was with you.” It all builds to an emotional finale.
“Everyone knows loss in one way or another,” Marcus Mumford said in a statement. “This song is about that. I’d never sat with anyone as they died before, and it had an effect on me. As it does everyone I know who has experienced it. But there’s wildness and beauty in it as well, and a deep honoring, that became the beginnings of this song that we worked up called ‘Beloved.’ I feel determined for people to take whatever they want from it, and not to be emotionally prescriptive.”