As the current pandemic sweeps across the country, it is taking lives. As we speak about being grateful, staying safe, and trying to keep normalcy, no one is talking about death and grieving. These topics are not pleasant ones, but conversing with each other and our children, is vital. I recently saw a story about an elderly couple who passed away within two weeks of each other. The woman who spoke in the article emphasized the seriousness of the virus, how we should be taking precautions, and keeping ourselves safe. At the end, she tells readers that not only is she grieving the loss of her parents, but she also must comfort her children with the loss of their grandparents.
It is important to speak to your children about death and loss, but it is also important to remember that they will use the experience as a measuring tool for all others. Trauma is real and post-traumatic stress is deadly. Children are resilient but not completely unbreakable. While they are strong, they are also extremely fragile and impressionable. It is important to take measured steps when discussing death with children, no matter their age. The topic is difficult to discuss but can be broken down into a few easy key points.
- Be honest – tell your children what happened. Spare the unpleasant details, but do not say something like, “Grandma just went on a trip”. Don’t give the impression that their loved one is somehow returning.
- Avoid toxic or damaging outlets like drugs or alcohol. Grief is draining and depressing on its own. Do not worsen your condition with more depressants.
- Give yourself time to be upset. Holding in your grief or suppressing the need to cry can manifest in harmful ways. If you are engaging in unhealthy activities, you are going to be hurting your children during a time they need you most.
- Use family traditions, beliefs, or faith-based practices to get peace. Do anything that brings you closer to your lost loved one. Plant a tree, make a wind chime, or pray as a family to ease the pain and help you and your children remember your loved one.
While these steps can be helpful, each person’s experience is different and handling sorrow will be unique for every family. It is obvious that how we choose to react to tragedy, and the actions we take following will forever be imprinted on our children.