I’ve had my fair share of loss in my life. My mom at 16, my Grandparents a week a part at 19, My two dear friends Dale and Wanda, and most recently my biological father. This morning I had the hard task of telling my children their Great Grandmother passed away this morning at 2:40am.
I’m no expert by any means however I’ve always been very good to deal with loss, and my emotions when it comes to them. I have always explained to my kids about my mom and grandparents whom they never got to meet (Jordan however did meet my grandparents!) I always retell stories, share my memories and often explain to them about death. This morning I had to do this again except I had to explain to them about someone they knew, passing. Their Great Grandmother.
They all took it very well, and I am sure I will be explaining more and answering more questions as the days go on, but I wanted to hop on here and share how I told my kids, and why I think they dealt with it so well.
My kids weren’t very close with their Great Grandmother, so that does play a huge factor in how they are all dealing with the news. But, remembering back to when my mom passed away, and back when my good friends Dale and Wanda who passed away, and both Jordan and I were very close to – telling kids this information is very important, and shouldn’t be dealt with lightly. Kid’s often have lots of questions, and although I don’t claim to know all the answers, I answer the questions as best as I can and deal with them as they come.
Give the news Gently, but Honestly: Explain the situation. “Great Grandma has passed away this morning” if they don’t understand they will more than likely ask. Take the time to sit and answer as best as you can, even if you don’t know all the answers and aren’t quite sure.
Feelings: Explain to kids that it’s okay to cry, feel sad, or even happy. It’s okay to celebrate your loved ones life instead of mourning their death. This I’ve found helps but isn’t by any means an out. Kids need to know it’s okay to feel how they feel, and no one way is right or wrong.
Sickness and Death: This has probably been the toughest one yet for me. Sometimes kids can be too young to fully grasp that someone was terminally ill, so they begin to get scared of getting sick themselves and dying. It’s important to explain the sickness the person had (or circumstance) to the child if this comes up, because it can come up and we don’t want kids thinking anytime someone gets sick, they will pass away.
Reactions: Sometimes children may cry, freak out, or even show no reaction at all. It’s a lot to take in, and it’s normal. If they show you expressing your sadness, grief and/or happiness they may as well.
Questions: There will be questions, possibly lots. Explain honestly, but give brief answers that they will understand. Too many details aren’t necessary but don’t avoid any questions they ask. More than likely the why, where and how questions will come up.
Talk about good memories: Remembering stories, sharing laughs and memories is a great way to help kids deal.
When I’ve explained to my kids about loss – the topic comes up often. So that is to be expected. They talk about my mom quite frequently, and they ask about animals we have had pass away a lot too. I try to avoid using Heaven and God when explaining, as we aren’t a Religious family and I just don’t feel comfortable telling them things I don’t know anything about. But, as with everything that is up to each individual.
Everyone deals with loss differently but it is extremely important to speak to your kids about it. Even before it may happen in their life. My kids knew about loss from a young age because of the death of my mom before they were born. Although this has helped my kids, if your child isn’t familiar with loss it may help to have a little chat about it to prepare for anything that may come up. Of course, that is up to you and how you want to deal with it when it comes.
I just know what I have experienced in my life, and how I dealt with loss with my own children. A time of loss is a sad time for everyone, and it’s important to include children and explain things to them the best you can. Losing a loved one isn’t easy, and isn’t something we have to deal with everyday thankfully but when we do – it’s tough.
Why it’s important to explain death to children: I personally think it’s important because children although, they are children – do have feelings and emotions too and deserve to know if someone close to them has passed away. Keeping this information from them won’t help anybody. If the person who passes away isn’t close to the family or child then telling them isn’t so pressing, but if it’s a close family member or friend they deserve to know so they can mourn and cope. What happens if they start asking where the person is? Why the person isn’t around? It’s important to be upfront and straight with them so they can understand, and be prepared for the person to no longer be around. You also want this information to come from you and not from someone else which may happen if you wait or keep it from the child.
Depending on a child’s age is how you go about telling them and dealing with it with them. Jordan was 4 when we dealt with the loss of our good friends and he handled it well.
Today my thoughts and love go out to everyone affected in our Family with the loss of Margaret. While I didn’t know her too well, she was very kind and sweet to me. Always giving me hugs, and telling me what a great mom I am and amazing for doing it with 6. Her words will always stick with me, and I will be forever grateful for the little time my children did get to spend with her. She was in her late 80s and lived a long life. Now resting peacefully with her late husband and son. She will never be forgotten.