Death is rough! No one is ever prepared and it isn’t easy to deal with or talk about.
We lost a significant part of our family this past summer, and as an adult, the feelings that have come with that have been painful and hard to articulate, so for my young children, it must be overwhelming.
I have learned that it is important to discuss what happened and to talk about it. I am in no way an expert, but here are some things that are helping me as I walk with my children through this painful process.
Being Open Right Away. Telling my children shortly after it happened provided them with an explanation for the red eyes and constant tears. Allowing them to see our emotions gave them the freedom to express their own. Being open with them and sharing our thoughts was helpful in showing them that everyone mourns differently.
Using the words dead or died. Of course, using these words might make some feel uncomfortable, but my husband and I preferred these phrases over ‘slipped away’, ‘asleep’, or ‘passed’. We found it helpful to be straightforward when discussing what happened.
No one can tell them how to grieve. My oldest wants to talk about her Cha Cha all the time. She likes to tell funny memories and focuses on the fun times she had with him. My son, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He is quiet about death and wants to be alone with his thoughts from time to time. We continue to let them know that everyone grieves differently, and that is okay.
Making them feel included. Instead of changing the subject when one of my children walks into the room, we just adjust our wording and the amount of information we provide. Discussing as a family how we want to celebrate upcoming events such as birthdays and holidays has helped them feel more in control of their grief.
Grief is a Rollercoaster. Letting my children know that it is okay to cry and to cry often, but it is also okay to laugh and tell jokes. Both tears and laughter are great healing tools and part of the journey. When I’m feeling completely helpless, my children pick up on it, and providing each other with a knowing look or a simple hug brings comfort to all of us. Crying one minute and laughing the next about certain memories just confirms how important their Cha Cha was to them.
The most important thing that we have discussed as a family is not putting a time limit or expectations on our grief process. We know the subject of death will need to be revisited as grief is not a checklist of emotions one goes through. We let our children know that we are always available for any ongoing questions they may have as well as provide them with professional help. Therapy has given them the tools they need to continue to deal with their feelings in their own way. We reassure our children that no one is allowed to tell them how they should feel or when they should be back to “normal”. We will continue to recognize the impact of our loss and how we have all changed. We all need time to adjust to this new life.