Oh the tragedy! What do you tell an almost four year old who has no idea about life and death and everything in between? She looks at me with beautiful brown eyes and says, “Grammie, where did my fish go?”
That in itself is a loaded question. My surprise was in the answer she came up with herself. She looked sad for a moment and then with the brightest smile said, “Don’t worry grammie, he’s an angel now!”
So in one moment I was going through all the things that I could tell her happened, but in the next second it was she herself who answered the question, to her own satisfaction and my relief.
It brought up a host of questions that parent’s should ask themselves. When the time comes, and it does for everyone sooner or later, what will you tell the children when someone or something close to them dies?
Children especially need to be heard when a tragedy like that happens in their lives. They don’t have the words or the understanding to help them deal with the reality. It is a difficult time for adults, losing anything that we love leaves a hole in your heart that is hard to fill. As adults we have the ability to understand that these are all part of life, but it doesn’t make it any easier for us to accept that fact. How much more difficult for a child who doesn’t have the life skills or knowledge or the language to voice what they are feeling. Yet it is no less difficult for the child to deal with the new reality. Part of our jobs as parents and grandparents is to help them understand what has happened, to accept what has happened and to deal with their feelings in order to cope with the loss.
It is at times like this that I am particularly glad that I have a strong faith base to begin the dialogue. It is such a blessing to be able to look beyond what is human and look to something bigger and better than what we have left behind. That doesn’t diminish the loss, but gives a glimmer of hope that it is not the end.
We speak of Love, how nothing can destroy that bond. When we love, we never totally lose those that we are in love with. They can be friends, family, pets or any other living thing. If we love them, then even when our relationship ends, we still have the love that we shared. This is a great comfort for us adults and it can be an even greater comfort for those little ones in our lives.
If you need help talking to your little ones, these books can be the start to a dialogue. They can help you on your way to making your child accept what has happened and lead you on the road to a good discussion about their feelings.
The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst is great for all children and will get you speaking to your children about their loss and how we are still connected to each other.
Waterbugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Children by Doris Stickney is another great read for children a little older, but still needing reassurances.
I Miss You: A First Look at Death, by Pat Thomas
Please take the time to reassure your children and grandchildren at this time in their development. It is one of the most difficult times in any person’s life and just because they are children does not make dealing with this separation any easier.
The books I’ve mentioned (and they are just a small sampling of what’s available) are all available through my website.
Remember to let them know You love them and always will.