Many experts say kids do better when talking about death if they are given accurate information in a way that combines sadness with reassurance and love. Use direct and simple language and speak in a way to ensure that the message is clear. Kids need to know that it’s okay to talk about upsetting things. This is not easy, but consider the alternative. Bottling things up, we’ve learned, is not healthy and will manifest itself in different ways over time.
Answering Children’s Questions About Death
Death is a mystery. When children ask questions about death, nobody has all the right answers. Even if you have said something and then wished you’d said it differently, let your child know that you thought of a better way to talk about it. If you can accept your humanness, your child can, too.
A death in the family heightens children’s awareness that life ends. They may ask, “Will you die, Mommy… Daddy?” With honesty and confidence, you might say something like “I hope to be alive for a very long time. And no matter what, there will always be someone to take care of you.”
There will probably be other times in their lives when children will feel sadness. Being reassured that love and good memories never die can nourish everyone in the family in every time of need.
Religion and Death
Religion is a source of strength and comfort for many people when they are coping with death. But Hospice Net advises that if religion has not played an important role in a family’s life before death, a child may be confused or frightened by the sudden introduction of religious explanations or references.
How Children’s Books Can Help
But how can we talk to children about death if we ourselves are grieving and unable to articulate our thoughts clearly to ourselves let alone to a child?
Books about death specifically for children can help. As you gather a child close to you and read out loud, a sensitively written book can guide both of you on this difficult journey.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst is one of our favorites here at Mesothelioma Circle. Narrated by a child whose beloved cat, Barney, has just died, the book honestly but gently addresses emotions stemming from loss, a child’s questions about the finality of death and the comfort of loving memories.
A children’s librarian at your local library can help you choose children’s books about death. Read them to yourself before you bring them home. If you find the words helpful and comforting, most likely your child will too.