Preparing our children for bereavement

 Death; What nobody wants to talk about

Preparing our children for bereavement and loss.

For anyone who has lost a loved one the feeling of being completely unprepared is all to common. It seems to be that as a culture we neither prepare ourselves or our children for the inevitability of death.

Death is something none of us really want to talk about; but a part of life that affects us all.  There are some useful ways in which we can prepare our children and ourselves in part for issues around death, loss and bereavement.  Quite often the death of a family pet is the first experience our young children have of loss and bereavement.

 As always you know your child best so adapt the following to suit the individual.

  • Old photos and stories set the scene for plenty of questions about those who have come and gone before us.
  • Talk about your own experiences of death and loss in your life.  What you wished you had or had not done while the person was still alive.  Or what you would do differently knowing what you know now.
  • Give them a variety of ways in which they can carry on the relationship with a loved one that has died.  Such as having a special photograph or a personal item belonging to that person, through prayer, celebrating a birthday, speaking about them and their personalities and retelling stories of them, keep them present through everyday conversation, any form or ritual or remembrance can be used

Remind them you won’t always be here.  Although this sounds a little harsh it keeps us in mind of the memories we are building with our children and loved ones.  It also reminds us to enjoy and respect each other.

Forever hugs, are something I use with my own children. Not sure where I got the concept from.  But sometimes when I hug them, I will say this is a forever hug, and you will still be able to feel this long after I am gone.

Our own fear of death can hold us back.  If you don’t know the answer to a question or cannot think of an appropriate answer – say I DON’T KNOW – and turn the question back to the child saying what do you think? there is nothing that brings a parent and child closer than exploring the unknown and imagination together

Useful films that children and teenagers can relate to and can prompt discussion around death and mortality

  • Most Disney movies – All good dogs go to heaven – for example

  • The house with the clock in its walls

  • Up

  • The book of life

  • Cocoa

  • Marley and Me

  • A Dogs Purpose

  • Harry potter – laced with themes around death

  • Beaches – for teen girls

  • The sixth sense – for teens

  • The fault in our stars – older children