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Useful Tips to Help Kids Deal with Death

Find several useful tips to help kids deal with death.

Annoyed my phone was ringing as I hurried to get my kids ready for school, I looked at the caller ID. Surprised it was my brother calling on their anniversary so early in the morning as I was planning to call him later, I answered, “Hello”

The next few minutes changed all our lives forever.

My brother blurted out J is dead.

Not wanting my kids (aged 7 and 8) to hear the rest of the conversation, I hurried upstairs.

Upon returning to the kitchen, they were scared and asked what happened. Apparently, they had heard enough before I could get far enough away. I had no choice but to answer that their cousin was dead. In shock, I tried to explain what had happened and discuss with my husband if I should just go to the funeral alone as it was out of state. Both girls cried, “You can’t leave us here!” I knew instantly I couldn’t leave them. We would all go.

Funerals offer us a time to say our last goodbyes as our loved ones are no longer with us physically, although they will always be with us in our hearts. I would have loved this book, In Loving Memory, A Child’s Journey to Understanding a Funeral and Starting the Grieving Process. It would have helped me find the words I struggled with to explain what was going to happen at the funeral.

I never really had time to ponder the two questions often asked by parents “Should my child attend a funeral,” and “How do I talk to my child about death and the events to come.” It was such a whirlwind as we flew out the following day.

Should my child attend a funeral?

I knew instantly I couldn’t leave my kids out of the process of saying goodbye to their cousin. However, for many, it is truly a difficult question.

You know your child best and whether they can handle attending a funeral. However, in most situations, it’s best to simply ask the child whether he/she wants to attend.

How do I talk to my child about death and the events to come?

Give them the opportunity to ask questions. Since kids are usually visual, the book I mentioned above is very helpful. It will help them understand what they will see and experience.

Answer their questions realistically yet simply. It’s ok to use the word dead.

Avoid telling them their loved one is sleeping; this can lead to other fears around sleeping.

Be patient and reassuring. This is a stressful time for both you and your children. There is no “right way” to grieve, and everyone handles situations differently.

Talk about your loved one. It can also be comforting for them to have something to hold that reminds them of their loved one. Kidderbug Kreations can help with bereavement gift-able hugs.

More useful tips to help kids deal with death

You can read more helpful tips to help kids deal with death from the authors of In Loving Memory, A Child’s Journey to Understanding a Funeral and Starting the Grieving Process here.

Authors and book cover for "In Loving Memory, A Child's Journey to Understanding a Funeral and Starting the Grieving Process.

To learn more about the authors and their books check here.

You can purchase In Loving Memory by Lacie Brueckner & Katherine Pendergas here. If you would like to read a review beforehand, Annette Martel was kind enough to share hers.

“It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but it can be especially difficult and confusing when children experience loss. Oftentimes, parents are uncertain of how to talk to their children about death. At the same time, they may be so consumed by their own grief that they feel ill-equipped to spend time figuring out the best way to talk to their children about death. That’s where the children’s book, “In Loving Memory” comes in to provide a starting point for helping children begin to understand grief and loss.

“With gentle words and warm illustrations, this book helps prepare children to understand what a funeral may be like. Available in two versions, one covers the basics of an open casket funeral, and the other covers what a cremation memorial service may be like. For example, in the open casket book, it talks about how the body will likely look a little different than when the loved one was alive. Even as an adult who has been to many funerals, I sometimes forget about this detail and this book can help me remember to prepare my children for this experience that could otherwise be shocking and worrisome to young kids. At the same time, the cremation version of the book can help start a conversation with your child about how bodies can be turned into cremains after someone passes away.

“What makes the book, “In Loving Memory,” so special is that it was co-authored by a funeral director, Lacie Brueckner, and a children’s book author (who also works at a funeral home), Katherine Pendergast. Their expertise in these areas was also complimented by having a child psychologist review the book to ensure that it uses language appropriate and comforting to children ages 4-10.

“This book is different from a lot of other children’s books that deal with death. Many speak in metaphors about the afterlife, which is all well and good, but this book uses simple, straightforward language that explains both the immediate future of the funeral process as well as the longer-term effects of grief. It also offers examples of how to keep the memory of a loved one alive, like by making your loved one’s favorite cookies or planting their favorite flowers. At the same time, it encourages the children and parents reading the book to come up with their own unique ways of remembering a loved one, with pages for children to write about favorite memories and favorite activities to do in memory of their loved one.

“Let’s face it, most parents don’t sit their children down to talk about death until they actually lose a loved one. When that happens, most of us find ourselves reaching for books that help explain the process better than we know how. I am so glad to have found these books to assist both me and my children in beginning and continuing the conversation of how the death of a loved one affects our life and how we can continue to keep the memories of our loved one close in our hearts by talking about our memories of that person and just how much we loved them.”

For more tips on dealing with grief, click here.

Useful Tips to Help Kids Deal with Death

Loving Through Loss: Resources for Grief Support

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