Dealing With Grief and Loss
If you are concerned about discussing death with your children, you’re not alone. Many of us hesitate to talk about death, particularly with youngsters. But death is an inescapable fact of life. We must deal with it and so must our children; if we are to help them, we must let them know it’s okay to talk about it.
By talking to our children about death, we may discover what they know and do not know - if they have misconceptions, fears, or worries. We can then help them by providing needed information, comfort, and understanding. Talk does not solve all problems, but without talk we are even more limited in our ability to help.
As with any sensitive subject, we must seek a delicate balance that encourages children to communicate - a balance that lies somewhere between avoidance and confrontation, a balance that isn’t easy to achieve. It involves:
- trying to be sensitive to their desire to communicate when they’re ready
- trying not to put up barriers that may inhibit their attempts to communicate
- offering them honest explanations when we are obviously upset
- listening to and accepting their feelings
- not putting off their questions by telling them they are too young
- trying to find brief and simple answers that are appropriate to their questions; answers that they can understand and that do not overwhelm them with too many words.
Any kind of extreme behavior is a red flag signaling a need for professional counseling: suicide threats, serious destructive acts toward property, people, or animals, frequent panic attacks, or substance abuse. Other changes include an inability or unwillingness to socialize, continued denial of the death, feeling responsible for the death, or a long-lasting decline in school performance.
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care -
NNCC. Wilken, C. S. & J. Powell. (1991). Learning to live through loss: Helping children understand death. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service.
There are many counseling centers available in the Wichita area qualified to help people of all ages with grief and loss issues. Search for “Grief and Loss” online to access these resources.