07/2/17

Supporting a child when someone dies – Part 1

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Talking about death and who can help

The death of someone close is one of the hardest things anyone has to face. It can be especially difficult to help a child manage their grief while you’re dealing with your own. Although you can’t protect a child from the pain that follows a bereavement there are things you can do to help them come to terms with their loss.

Talking about death

Although you may wish to protect your child from unhappiness, avoiding talking about the person who died isn’t helpful and can cause problems in later life. Talking about death can be difficult, even for people who are familiar with it. You may worry that you will frighten your child or say the wrong thing. But it’s important to be open and to answer any questions they have as honestly as you can. What children imagine can be far worse than the reality.

  • Try to avoid telling your child not to worry or be sad. It’s healthy to get attached to people. And, like you, your child might find it hard to control their feelings.
  • Don’t try to hide your pain, either – it’s alright to cry in front of a child. It can help to let them know why you’re crying.
  • Be sure to give the child plenty of reassurance. Let them know they’re loved and that there are still people who will be there for them. A cuddle can make a big difference and make them feel cared for. It’s also a good idea to stick to a routine, if you can. This can help the child feel more secure.

Sometimes it might seem as though they haven’t heard what you’ve said or aren’t affected by it. They could also seem to move in and out of their grief – being upset at some times and not at others. This is just their way of coping and they’ll deal with what they’ve been told in their own time.

Child Bereavement UK   has a useful information sheet (PDF download) for explaining death to children. Here are some other things that may help:

Be honest

Children need to know what happened to the person that died. Try to explain in clear, simple language that’s right for their age and level of experience. You might also try giving them information small amounts at a time, especially young children, as this can help them understand. Once you’ve explained that someone has died, the details can follow.

Use plain language

Talking around the subject doesn’t help and may lead to misunderstandings. Avoid explanations such as ‘the person has ‘gone to sleep’ or ‘gone away’. They may make your child frightened to go to sleep or worry as soon as you leave the house in case you don’t come back. Even if you believe the person who died has gone to heaven this can be confusing and worrying for a small child.

Encourage questions

Be prepared for your child to be curious and to ask the same questions again and again. This can be distressing but remember it’s a part of their need for reassurance and helps them process the information.

It’s not easy, even for adults, to understand death and dying. A child’s understanding will depend on their age, gender, stage of development, family background, personality and previous experience. Think about what to say and give the same answers each time. Be led by what they want to know and don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t know the answer to something.

Reassure them

It’s common for children to feel that the person has died as a result of something they may have said or done. Explain simply how and why they’re not to blame.

Ask them to tell their story

Asking children to tell their story of the death and experience of grief will let them know they are important and that their relationship with the person who died has been recognised. It can help you to understand what they know about what happened and correct anything that’s not quite accurate. It can also help children to discover that the way they see things changes with time.

Listening to their story will also help you better understand the child’s grief. Avoid comparing it to what you think they should be feeling or overusing words like ‘time’ as a way of trying to reassure them.

What people want more than anything, whether child or adult, is control over grief, feelings, and needs. Immediate comfort, the ability to express their feelings about the loved one and stability are all important in helping someone cope.

People who can help

Each person’s grief is as individual as the person who’s been bereaved and it can sometimes be easier to deny feelings than to acknowledge them. How children respond will depend on many things including:

  • their age
  • their stage of development
  • what they’ve read or seen on TV
  • their understanding of death and dying

Sometimes two children from the same family might need completely different types of support. The relationship that the child had with the person who died can also affect how they grieve.

Take things one day at a time. If at any time you feel unable to cope remember you’re not alone. Friends, family, healthcare professionals, teachers at your child’s school and others can all help. There may also be specialist child bereavement services that you can use including Child Bereavement Network  , Cruse Bereavement Care   or Winston’s Wish  .

Alternatively there may be a local children’s bereavement service in your area – ask your GP or search online.

External websites

Care for the Family  

Child Bereavement Network  

Cruse Bereavement Care  

The Child Bereavement Charity  

ChildLine: 0800 1111 (24-hour helpline)  

DadsNet  

Dying Matters  

Grandparents Plus  

Grief Encounter  

Healthtalkonline  

Netmums  

Samaritans: 116 123 (24-hour helpline)  

WAY Foundation  

Winston’s Wish  

Complete Article HERE!

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06/14/17

When a Pet Dies, Helping Children Through the ‘Worst Day of Their Lives’

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Reading age-appropriate books about a pet’s death, like this one for ages 4 to 8, may be helpful in getting a child over the grief.

The loss of a pet is often a child’s first experience with death. Understanding the unique ways that children view pets and respond to their passing can help parents to ease the grieving process.

Joshua Russell, an assistant professor of environmental science at Canisius College in Buffalo, who has studied the effects of pet loss in children, explained that for many children, pets are more than just animals. “Many kids describe their pets as siblings or best friends with whom they have strong connections,” he said.

In a study of 12 children ages 6 to 13 who had lost a pet, published in the journal Environmental Education Research, Dr. Russell found that even years after the pet’s death, some children still described the loss as “the worst day of their lives.” He also discovered that children come up with unique ways to rationalize their pet’s passing and that the way a pet dies influences how children grieve.

“Children, in particular, have a distinct sense of existential fairness around whether or not an animal lived until an appropriate age,” Dr. Russell said.

Like adults, children more readily accepted their pet’s death when it was expected in some way. For example, children were less affected when they knew in advance that the animal would have a short life span. They seemed to know that a fish or hamster, for instance, would not live as long as a dog or cat. When an animal was sick, they generally agreed that euthanasia relieved the pet of its suffering. If an animal is terminally ill, parents can help prepare the child by talking about the impending loss, as well as the feelings of sadness it will evoke.

This book is written for children ages 8 to 13.

Yet when pets died in tragic and unexpected ways, the loss was harder for the child to accept. “When a pet dies suddenly, it highlights the unpredictability of the world. It tells children that the people and animals they love can die without warning,” said Abigail Marks, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco who specializes in childhood grief.

Of course, a child’s age and developmental level affect how he or she understands death, and a child’s grief looks very different from an adult’s. Children do not always cry or immediately show emotion. But this does not mean they are not deeply affected by the loss.

“Kids under the age of 5 will have a hard time understanding that the pet is gone forever because it’s difficult for them to grasp the concept of death,” said Jessica Harvey, a psychotherapist in San Francisco who specializes in pet grief.

One way young children may express their grief is through play. After the loss of a pet, they may pretend, for example, that a stuffed cat or dog became ill and passed away. Parents can help their children through the grieving process by actively participating in this type of imaginary play.

Reading age-appropriate books about pet death may also be helpful. “Goodbye, Brecken,” by David Lupton, for children ages 4 to 8; “Kate, the Ghost Dog: Coping With the Death of a Pet,” by Wayne L. Wilson, for ages 8 to 13; and “Memories of You,” by Erainna Winnett, for ages 7 to 12, are some examples.

School-age children will often have questions about the animal’s death, and the back-and-forth that ensues may open up larger conversations about love, loss and what happens after we die. When telling a school-age child about a pet’s death, Dr. Marks recommends being honest about what happened. Doing so lets a child know that it is not taboo to talk about death or painful feelings, which can set the stage to process other sorts of loss in the future. Parents should also validate any emotions that arise as the child mourns.

She said that a child’s grief would ebb and flow; they may cry one minute and then resume playing or talking about other things the next minute. Parents should be more concerned if a child has nightmares, increased anxiety or difficulty sleeping. If these symptoms persist, psychological counseling may help.

…and of course, our personal favorite.

Dr. Marks said it was also important for parents to follow their child’s lead. “If they are asking about the details of the pet’s death, it’s a sign that they want to talk about it,” she said. “They are looking for your comfort.”

For many children, it is also important to have a goodbye ritual. “Rituals around death are some of the most meaningful ways we have of recognizing someone’s life, but these ceremonies aren’t societally defined for pet death,” Dr. Marks said. Families can create their own rituals, like having a small memorial service, scattering the pet’s ashes, planting a remembrance tree or creating a photo album.

“This is a way to process the loss and to honor the role that the pet had in your family,” Dr. Marks said.

Complete Article HERE!

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05/9/17

They knew their unborn baby would die — just not like this

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Royce Young and his wife, Keri, meeting their daughter, Eva, after she was stillborn.

For Royce Young, writing their story was not only a way to work through it, he said, but also a way to remember it.

Nearly five months ago, Young and his wife, Keri, found out that their unborn daughter had a rare birth defect called anencephaly, a condition in which the baby does not develop a vital part of the brain or top of the skull.

If their daughter was born, she would die all too soon. If the pregnancy were terminated, she would not live at all.

So the grief-stricken parents made a decision: Their daughter would be born — then they would donate her organs.

“We decided to continue, and chose the name Eva for our girl, which means ‘giver of life,’” Young, an NBA writer for ESPN.com, wrote Thursday on the blog Medium. “The mission was simple: Get Eva to full-term, welcome her into this world to die, and let her give the gift of life to some other hurting family.”

But Eva died before she ever made it into the world.

Young, a 31-year-old father from Oklahoma City, wrote a gripping and gut-wrenching 3,200-word article titled “We spent months bracing and preparing for the death of our daughter. But guess what? We weren’t ready.”

From the start, Young said, he and his wife had planned to document every moment of their newborn’s life, no matter how short it turned out to be — introducing her to her big brother, Harrison, and her grandparents, and holding, hugging and kissing her for the first and last time.

After Eva was tragically and unexpectedly stillborn on April 17, Young said he wanted to share their daughter’s legacy.

So he did — and his post has swept the Internet.

“It’s neat to see that our little girl, that people know her name,” Young told The Washington Post on Friday. “Her legacy is something that’s impactful.”

Not long after the Youngs learned of their daughter’s terminal diagnosis late last year, Young said he started writing about his wife, Keri — how “tough” she was through it all.

In February, while covering the NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, Young said, he posted it on his Facebook page. Someone shared it, and the couple ended up on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

People knew about the Youngs’ wishes for Eva. And when she was stillborn this month, some mistakenly thought they had been successful in their mission.

“People kept reaching out to us after we said that Eva was born and that she had passed away,” Young told The Post. “People were like, ‘That’s amazing; I bet she saved so many lives.’ And to know how it actually happened, with her dying in Keri’s womb and everything and us not being able to donate her kidneys or liver, it was kind of getting more and more depressing to see people thinking that’s what happened.”

Young wrote in the Medium piece about the sorrow he felt watching his wife carry their dying child to term as well as the unexpected joys of the pregnancy.

“We got excited to be her parents,” he wrote. “I think a big part of that was connected to the decision we made to continue on, which was empowering. She had a name, an identity, and a purpose.”

And Young wrote about the tragic moment the couple discovered that their daughter had died in the womb:

On Sunday, April 16, the day Keri officially hit full-term at 37 weeks, suddenly, we were in the two-week window. In two weeks, we’d be prepping to welcome our baby girl into the world, and preparing to say goodbye to her. I planned on sitting down that day to write Eva a letter, like I did before Harrison was born, to give him on his 18th birthday. She’d never read it, but I was going to read it to her. Keri didn’t feel Eva move much that morning, but we both brushed it off and went to lunch. We came home, put Harrison down for a nap, and Keri sat down in her favorite spot and prodded Eva to move. She wouldn’t.

We started to worry. Keri got up, walked around, drank cold water, ate some sugary stuff. She sat back down and waited. Maybe that was something? We decided to go to the hospital.

“This is going to be bad, isn’t it?” I said.

Keri erupted into tears and her body shook. I had my answer.

We held on to hope that we were just being overly anxious, and didn’t take any bags. We arrived, and a nurse looked for a heartbeat on the doppler. Nothing. Not unusual because it was sometimes hard to find because of the extra fluid. They brought in a bedside ultrasound machine and looked. It seemed that maybe there was a flicker of cardiac activity. They told us to get ready to rush in for a C-Section. I freaked out. I just remember repeating, “I’m not ready I’m not ready I’m not ready I’m not ready.” I was supposed to have two more weeks. What about the plan? What about Harrison? What about Eva’s aunts and uncles and grandparents? What if they couldn’t make it in time? …

They brought in a better ultrasound machine. Keri and I had seen enough ultrasounds to immediately know. There was no heartbeat. Eva was gone before we ever got to meet her. The brain controls steady heart functions, and Eva’s finally gave out.

Keri rolled onto her side and put both hands over her face and let out one of those raw, visceral sobbing bursts. I stood silently shaking my head. We had tried to do everything right, tried to think of others, tried to take every possible step to make this work, and it didn’t. No organ donation. Not even for the failsafe, research. We felt cheated. What a total rip-off. The word I still have circling in my head is disappointment. That doesn’t really do it justice, because it’s profound disappointment. Like the kind that’s going to haunt me forever. The kind of disappointment that is going to sneak up on me at different times, like when I’m mowing the yard or rocking Harrison or driving to a game.

Since there was no reason to control variables anymore, the doctors induced Keri into labor. The rest of Sunday and into Monday morning were the darkest, most painful hours of our lives.

In the end, Young wrote, he and Keri were able to donate their daughter’s eyes, which he called “the best moment of my life.”

“The timing of it all is just something I can’t explain,” he wrote on Medium. “It wasn’t what we planned or hoped for, but it was everything we needed in that moment. I buried my head in my arms and sobbed harder than I ever have. Keri put her hands over her face and did the same. Happy tears.”

Young told The Post that this had been “the most painful, excruciating five months of my life” but that he has no regrets.

“This is something that’s life-defining, and I think Keri and I feel like we’re going to be better for it,” he said. “That’s something people often say: ‘I’m so glad this happened to me. I’m going to be a better person now.’ But I wish this had not happened to me. I wish that I had a perfectly healthy daughter right now to hold, and I wish my son, Harrison, had a little sister. And it kills me that we had to go through this, but the main thing we wanted to try to do is regret as little as we could, and when Keri and I are 40 or 50 years old, I hope we can say we handled this the best we could given the circumstances.”

The Youngs.

Complete Article HERE!

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04/29/17

Helping Kids Through Grief

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By: Libby Mitchell

The death of someone close during childhood can haunt a child throughout their lives. However, it doesn’t have to if children are allowed to go through the grieving process in their own time and in their own way. “Children are naturally resilient,” says Katherine Supiano, PhD, LCSW, FT, director of Caring Connections: A Hope and Comfort in Grief Program at the University Of Utah College Of Nursing. “If they are given an opportunity to express their feelings and given support from adults they not only do well with their grief and grow up to be extremely helpful adults.”

Supporting a child through the grief process starts with being honest with them about what has happened. No, they don’t need to know every gory detail of a car accident or an illness, but they need to be given the facts in plain simple language. “Never tell a child someone just ‘went to sleep,’” says Supiano. “That could lead to a child having sleep issues later because they equate going to sleep with dying.”

Simple is often best when it comes to the spiritual aspects of death as well. Adults may believe they are being comforting when they tell grieving children about a master plan, or that their loved one is in a better place, but such words may fall on deaf ears – or have another impact. “In the face of raw new grief those words don’t feel true,” says Supiano. “They can end up being wounding and may drive people from a faith community.”

Instead of focusing on the spiritual when supporting a child through grief adults should focus on more basic needs. “Think about physical needs: is the child sleeping, are they eating, are they comfortable,” says Supiano. “Then look at the emotional and cognitive needs: do they need a hug, are you listening to them, are you answering their questions. Let the spiritual comfort be wrapped around the practical.”

It is also important to know when outside help is needed. There are times when family members experiencing their own grief cannot offer support to a child.  There are services that can help in these situations. “Caring Connections can put you in touch with agencies and organizations that can help,” says Supiano. “If we can’t help we will help you find someone who can.”

A child who does not receive support in the face of grief may deal with lasting impacts. They cannot be expected to heal on a certain timeline, or to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves. “When people are denied that freedom to grieve openly and with support the grief process can become thwarted,” says Supiano. “They may learn to mask their feelings and put on a veneer. Or they may develop coping mechanisms that are self-destructive.”

Unsupported grief at a young age could also lead to depression or anxiety. This could be exacerbated in cases where a family member dies suddenly and without warning. “You have a young person who suddenly has an ill-defined awareness that the world is a dangerous place,” says Supiano. “That’s gasoline on the fire of anxiety.”

There is no right way to go through grief. In facing loss everyone, including children, must find what works for them. However, in every case, the presence of support is what helps the process go smoothly. “It is especially important for children as they are still learning their emotional landscapes,” says Supiano. “Adults who support them and give good examples can have a powerful impact.”

Complete Article HERE!

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03/27/17

The teacher gets schooled on the question of death

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Norris Burkes

By Norris Burkes

First, I need to assure you that my wife, Becky, only wears dead things around her neck during S-week. That’s the week she challenges her pre-kindergarten class of 4-year-olds to wear something that starts with the letter “S.”

The dead thing was a necklace her brother made from snake vertebrae and turquoise. It must sound terribly gross to the uniformed, but believe me it was a real attention-getter when she taught fourth grade.

Last year during S-week, my wife stood fingering her serpentine skeleton and asked, “Class, who knows what this is?”

 

One kid said, “Your fingers,” but that’s how literally little guys think.

“No,” Becky said. “This is a necklace made of snake bones, ‘Ssss,’ ” she said, making the snake hiss. “S-nake for S-week.”

“Ewww. Is it dead?” asked a prissy girl in the front row.

“Yes.”

“How did it die, Ms. Burkes?”

“Things just die,” she said with a dismissive inflection.

The kids seemed unprepared for that word “die,” so I’m guessing “dead” never came up during D-week.

“Aww,” exclaimed a sympathetic boy.

“Do squirrels die?” asked a kinetic boy who often chases the figurative squirrels.

“Yes,” my wife said slowly. She was beginning to see this line of questioning as a stacked deck.

Hoping to draw a better hand, Becky called on a favorite, little Brayden, whose parents she sees regularly at the gym.

Braydon put his cards face up on the table. “Do people die?”

“Yes. Every living thing dies eventually,” she explained.

Just then, an eerie stillness paralyzed their up to now wiggly bodies. My wife offered what she hoped would be one last touching example. “My mom died.”

“Is my mom going to die?” Brayden asked.

“Oh, don’t worry.” Becky said. “My mom was much older than your mom.”

Of course, the question no one would dare ask was, “Will I die, too?”

As a hospice chaplain, I can tell you that the unquestionable answer to that unasked question is “yes.”

As we move through the holy season of Lent, we recall the wisdom of the one who made it clear that he was going to die. He knew the timing of his death and he knew how he would die. Yet his followers resisted his predictions despite his saying, “It’s appointed unto a man once to die and after this the judgment.”

Since those words were first recorded, many seek to emphasize the judgment part. Yet, I think there’s a deeper meaning. Jesus was calling us to live our lives with a heightened sense of expectation and joy. He wants us to live at peace with all men as well as our God.

Alcoholics Anonymous calls this kind of life, “Keeping your side of the street clean.” That means we can’t predict our lifespan, but we can choose the way we live our lives.

Still searching for meaning, those kids kept drilling their teacher.

“My grandmother is old,” chimed one. “Is she going to die?”

My wife had reached a dead end. This was the moment every public speaker knows, the point stage actors describe as “dying out there.”

She thought about quoting Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season … a time to be born and time to die.” But instead, she glanced at her watch and said, “Oh my, kids! It’s time for recess!”

Complete Article HERE!

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03/17/17

‘Everything changed the day Conor’s heart stopped beating’

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– How I kept going after the death of my baby

Imogen writes Conor’s name in the sand.

I am a mother to two beautiful boys. My first son Conor was stillborn at the end of a textbook pregnancy. His death was sudden and without warning. Grieving for the boy who didn’t come home is complicated. I grieve the innocence of my past along with the absence of my son from my present and future. In those early months I didn’t know if I would survive or even if I wanted to survive, such was the depth of my grief. Everything changed the day Conor’s heart stopped beating. I am learning that keeping going isn’t about rebuilding my old life – it’s about building a new life. Two years on from Conor’s short life and subsequent death, I can now reflect on what helps me to keep going…

Knowing I am not alone
Sadly about 1 in 200 babies die before, during or shortly after birth. While most parents leave hospital by the front door with car seats, I left by the back door with a coffin. Thankfully the bereavement team in the hospital I attended put me in touch with two baby loss charities; A Little Lifetime Foundation and Féileacáin. I attended support groups, joined online forums and made friends with other bereaved mothers. While all our stories are different, we all share a broken heart. Hearing the two words “me too” has been life saving.

Accepting that grief has no instructions or time frame
In the weeks and months that followed Conor’s death I had unrealistic expectations of how I should be functioning. There were days it took all the strength I had just to get out of bed. Grief comes with no instructions and its chaos is frightening. Not only do I have to work through grief but grief also needs to work through me. I grieve because I love my son and so I will never stop or nor do I want to stop grieving for Conor.

Telling my story
I was left in a state of total shock following Conor’s sudden death. Antenatal classes did not prepare me for making decisions around a post mortem and funeral just hours after delivering and meeting my beautiful boy. In an effort to process what happened I found myself telling and retelling my story. I also read and reread stories of baby loss. I was inspired by other mothers to start writing my own in the form of an online blog. cakesforconor.com explores my relationship with grief. When I click the “Publish” button I feel listened to. It allows me to tell the world about Conor and has helped me connect with other bereaved parents.

Hearing Conor’s name
All parents want to protect their children. I find myself wanting to protect the memory of my child. I fear that Conor will be forgotten. Very few people got to meet him and no one else got to know him. This lack of shared stories makes grieving for the boy who didn’t come home complicated. I think some people are afraid to mention Conor in case they upset me. However, hearing family and friends speak his name is like music to my ears. It tells me that he is remembered.

Finding peace by doing something I enjoy
In the early months after Conor’s death, I could find no escape from the pain of grief. One day I noticed apples falling from a tree in the garden and decided to bake an apple cake. I figured if my hero, the cook and TV Bake Off judge Mary Berry could survive the sudden death of her son then so could I. For those few hours kneading, mixing, frosting and, of course, tasting, I found peace. Attending a beginner’s baking course was the start of my re-engagement with the outside world.

Accepting that my relationships have changed
I have a very pro-active manager who on hearing the news of Conor’s death sought professional advice on how best to support her employee. She was told to keep in touch even if it seemed like she was being pushed away. The people I spend time with now are those who continued to send “thinking of you” messages without the pressure to meet up. They are those who had no expectations of me to be anything other than how I was. Conor’s life and death have changed me so maybe it’s inevitable that relationships would change too.

Moving forward with Conor
The bereaved can often feel a pressure from others to move on after a loss. In the past, parents were advised to forget about their baby who died. Believing it was for the best, babies were taken away from mothers after delivery. Parents did not get to see, hold or name their babies. While this was not that long ago, it is unimaginable to my generation. I have very precious memories of time spent with Conor in the hospital. I have photographs along with his hand and footprint. I am able to move forward by finding ways to bring him with me. I tell our second son all about his big brother. I write Conor’s name in the sand, decorate my cakes with his star symbol and light candles. Conor will be always remembered as the little boy who made me a mother.

Lots of tissues
People comment on the dignity of the bereaved at funerals. However, in reality, grief is ugly. Behind closed doors it is swollen eyes, a snotty nose and blotchy face. Two years on the sobbing is no more but tears still fall freely. Tears now fall from eyes framed by waterproof mascara and I go nowhere without tissues.

Complete Article HERE!

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02/8/17

Helping Your Child Deal With Death

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When a loved one dies, children feel and show their grief in different ways. How kids cope with the loss depends on things like their age, how close they felt to the person who died, and the support they receive.

Here are some things parents can do to help a child who has lost a loved one:

When talking about death, use simple, clear words. To break the news that someone has died, approach your child in a caring way. Use words that are simple and direct. For example, “I have some sad news to tell you. Grandma died today.” Pause to give your child a moment to take in your words.

Listen and comfort. Every child reacts differently to learning that a loved one has died. Some kids cry. Some ask questions. Others seem not to react at all. That’s OK. Stay with your child to offer hugs or reassurance. Answer your child’s questions or just be together for a few minutes.

Put emotions into words. Encourage kids to say what they’re thinking and feeling in the days, weeks, and months following the loss. Talk about your own feelings: It helps kids be aware of and feel comfortable with theirs. Say things like, “I know you’re feeling very sad. I’m sad, too. We both loved Grandma so much, and she loved us, too.”

Tell your child what to expect. If the death of a loved one means changes in your child’s life, head off any worries or fears by explaining what will happen. For example, “Aunt Sara will pick you up from school like Grandma used to.” Or, “I need to stay with Grandpa for a few days. That means you and Dad will be home taking care of each other. But I’ll talk to you every day, and I’ll be back on Sunday.”

Talk about funerals and rituals. Allow children to join in rituals like viewings, funerals, or memorial services. Tell your child ahead of time what will happen. For example, “Lots of people who loved Grandma will be there. We will sing, pray, and talk about Grandma’s life. People might cry and hug. People will say things like, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ or, ‘My condolences.’ Those are polite and kind things to say to the family at a funeral. We can say, ‘Thank you,’ or, ‘Thanks for coming.’ You can stay near me and hold my hand if you want.”

You might need to explain burial or cremation. For example, “After the funeral, there is a burial at a cemetery. The person’s body is in a casket (or coffin) that gets buried in the ground with a special ceremony. This can feel like a sad goodbye, and people might cry.” Share your family’s beliefs about what happens to a person’s soul or spirit after death.

Explain what happens after the service as a way to show that people will feel better. For example, “We all will go eat food together. People will laugh, talk, and hug some more. Focusing on the happy memories about Grandma and on the good feeling of being together helps people start to feel better.”

Give your child a role. Having a small, active role can help kids master an unfamiliar and emotional situation such as a funeral or memorial service. For example, you might invite your child to read a poem, pick a song to be played, gather some photos to display, or make something. Let kids decide if they want to take part, and how.

Help your child remember the person. In the days and weeks ahead, encourage your child to draw pictures or write down favorite stories of their loved one. Don’t avoid mentioning the person who died. Recalling and sharing happy memories helps heal grief and activate positive feelings.

Respond to emotions with comfort and reassurance. Notice if your child seems sad, worried, or upset in other ways. Ask about feelings and listen. Let your child know that it takes time to feel better after a loved one dies. Some kids may temporarily have trouble concentrating or sleeping, or have fears or worries. Support groups and counseling can help kids who need more support.

Help your child feel better. Provide the comfort your child needs, but don’t dwell on sad feelings. After a few minutes of talking and listening, shift to an activity or topic that helps your child feel a little better. Play, make art, cook, or go somewhere together.

Give your child time to heal from the loss. Grief is a process that happens over time. Be sure to have ongoing conversations to see how your child is feeling and doing. Healing doesn’t mean forgetting about the loved one. It means remembering the person with love, and letting loving memories stir good feelings that support us as we go on to enjoy life.

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