After my last blog on how we told Our Son his brother had died I thought I would share with you the guiding principles that drove us that fateful day August 13th and in the following months and years.
Knowing what to say or how to comfort and console a grieving child who has lost a parent a brother, sister, friend or cousin is a painful and unimaginable reality that can beset a family without warning or mercy.Finding the right words to convey the finality of death, to ease their pain and offer hope can seem impossible as every circumstance and situation is different. Children of different ages feel, experience and react in different ways to their grief and our attempts to comfort and console them. This is simply my
Preparing to tell a child someone has died:
Before you say anything try to …
- Think about and plan out what you are going to say. I wanted it to be positive inspiring and enduring
- Find a suitable time and place. For me it was with Jackie whil Adam lay rested.
- Decide who is going to tell them. In our case it was both Mum and dad together.
- Know Your words will most likely be remembered forever and influence future feeling sentiments and behaviours. I knew what I said would influence his thinking and would be a be absorbed into his belief system.
- Realise A child may very well cling on to every word. As a parents we are blindly trusted to be all knowing and powerful and someone who has all the answers what you say will be heard and processed in different ways.
- Reafirm, Remind and Remember The first time you tell a child someone has died is the hardest but it is not the only time you will have to talk about death and help them navigate their confusion pain and grief.
- Realise that Questions will be asked over time and you will get a chance refine your words, thoughts and philosophies over many conversations. You will get a chance to answer many questions honestly in the moment they are asked or when you are needed to just be there. Here are some good answers to some questions.
- Hope What you say may inspire them in a positive way allowing them to live a fulfilled spiritual happy life. My biggest fear was that Adams Death would define Harry in a negative way and stifle his potential for a beautiful and happy life so I wanted to share something with him that he could draw on build resilience and a foundation on which to build.
- Be Aware of the individual circumstances situation and complications surrounding. For us Harry was 6 Adam was playing one day and gone the next. He was Harrys best pal who he spent every waking hour with. It was a gap that would need to be filed by mum and dad.
- Be prepared for some of the questions they will ask death. There are so many questions children have here is a good resource to help
Some Guiding Principles of what your words should try to.
There are no set rules but here are some key things to know when telling a child someone they love has died and offering them support and hope.
- Be Clear: Explain death what it means and emphasise the finality of death that they will not see them ever again.
- Explain how the person died (be truthfull but if possible leave out any scary or extremally upsetting details. You can deal with this later if necessary.
- Give them a philosophy they can work with a mantra if you will. They were special they will always be around you.
- Help them understand what is happening and the feelings they have
- Be honest
- Don’t tell them how they should act or how long it will last
- don’t give false hope
- Emphasise the finality of death
- Offer reassurance and
- Don’t rush it let them ask questions gain acceptance and ask for clairfication
- Try not to let them bottle it up
- Let them cry and release their pain
- Don’t make excuses for their loongterm behaviour talke to them help them understand
- Gain trust
- Leave space for questions
- Sadness is big when you are small.
Usefull resources and Support Services I found helpful
Anam Cara Supporting Parents after Bereavement
barretstown.org A Serious Fun Camp Rebuilding Lives Affected by Childhood Illness & Bereavement
Marie Cuire Care and Support through terminal illness
LauraLynn Making the most of Short & Precious Lives
Jacintassmile.ie Sibling Bereavement Group
Wishing you love and hope that you can inspire happiness and great things in the child you have to share such sadness with.
Love Hugs and Kisses