February 26, 2009

A Question...

I need your help on a question that I have been pondering for a few days.

We received a phone call Tuesday afternoon that Dh's grandfather passed away. When I told the kids they were understandably upset. I was presented with an unique circumstance. I never had to deal with death before the age of 13. My kids are 7-11. Two of my children are getting concerned about their own grandparents. See we(dh & I) have had 3 grandparents pass away in the past 6 weeks. So the kids are a little worried.

I explained that their grandparents were much younger than ours. That we were 25 years older that they are. But I wonder if I should explain something further. I know that there is not a perfect answer, but I would like to know what you think. Have you had to deal with this? If so how did you handle it? We will be going to the funeral next week. It will be a full military funeral. What should I do to prepare the kids for it?

Thank you.


Are we there yet? said...

First off I am sorry for your family's loss. My heart goes out to you.
My kids went through it last year, first with Jordan's brother missing and then us finding him decesed. It was very scary for the kids. They had to see their big strong Daddy cry and grieve. And as much as we thought we had shielded them from it all their eyes were wide open to it all. after that it seemed we were going to a funeral every other month. My kids were begining to think everytime the phone rang it would be bad news. I would notice that after a few days they would become very clingy and would not let us out of there sight. I know what I am about to say is going to come out wrong but, I had to keep telling them that we all have to die at one time or another. Death is part of life. Tell them it is ok to feel scared, to cry and get angry. But also tell them to remember the happy times.
I hope this helps a little. I do know of some really good books that explain death to kids. Maybe that will help also.
The best thing to do is to hold them close and tell them how much you love them.

jugglingpaynes said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Death does throw the family off. We've gone through many losses over the years. I agree with the above comments. Be as honest as you can and tell them that it is OK to feel whatever they are feeling.

My son was especially affected after my father-in-law died. I spent years dealing with his fears of loss and death. I tried to help him understand that the grief he felt was natural, as well as the regret of not spending more time with his grandfather while he was alive. My son also feared his own death after that and other losses. It was a long process dealing with these issues, but most important was to listen to his fears without belittling them and to constantly reassure him that we all loved him.

There used to be a good video by Mister Rogers about talking about death with children. I don't know if it is still available, but I highly recommend it, if you can find it.


Karen said...

Make sure you are talking to them about your beliefs about life and death and the relationship between the two. I am sure you already have, but keep the communication open - the more they see it, the more personal it will become. Also, since it is a military funeral specifically, make sure you tell them why it is a military funeral and maybe open up a dialogue about the grandfather's service to the country and why he is getting a special funeral. Explain the purpose of the gunfire at the ceremony and why the flag will be on the coffin and folded in a special way. A military funeral has different elements than a traditional one that might scare the little ones and they will feel more confident when they know why the guys in uniform are standing by with guns. I am pretty sure that they still play taps at military funerals too, and if they will maybe let the kids hear the song before the funeral and tell them what the song means. Funerals are a good time to pass on cultural values and teach about symbols.

There is an interesting book that I have on hold at the library - its called The Mountains of Tibet - it is a tale of reincarnation. When we talk about all the different possibilities after death, my kids are most comforted by this one.

I am sorry for the loss your family is experiencing. Cling together and comfort each other and honor those that are no longer with you - that is the best thing you can do for yourself and the little ones.

Kelly said...

We lost my grandfather 2 years ago Feb. 1 (he was 83), and then my dad (57) on Feb. 10 a year later. We read a lot of books about heaven, and discussed our beliefs. We also spent a lot of time explaining that my dad got a sickness and was not old. This still does not sit well with them. My little ones (ages 5 and 7) worry that I am going to die (even now) My 9 year old writes notes to her grandfather and then burns them when we have a fire. We've made special scrapbooks to remember family members, and talk about them a lot. Unfortunately none of these stop my little ones from worrying. It's tough. I just tell them I'm planning on living until they are old ladies, and we talk about that a LOT! Hang in there, sorry for your loss.

Alicia said...

I meant to reply sooner but have been sick. I'm sorry too for your loss. Death sucks.

My kids have had to deal with a lot of death too. Both of my parents are dead (they never knew them) and my girls lost a good friend 2 years ago very suddenly to cancer (she was diagnosed 3 weeks after she was at Anna's birthday party and 2 weeks later she got an infection while on chemo and died). It was especially hard for them to deal with the death of a friend and someone their age.

I stress with my kids that we all die and we can't control that but we can control a lot of things that help us live a long, healthy life. We talk about phytonutrients in foods (the things that give fruits and veggies their color, typically) and how they help protect against cancer, how the onions and garlic and such that I cook with help protect them, how being a healthy weight and getting exercise and not being around smokers.... all of these things make our bodies stronger and better able to keep us going.

For Anna, she still cried every day for months and she still writes songs for Hannah. Victoria is very practical but she was hit just as hard. It helped them to spend time with Hannah's mom and others who loved her, to talk about her and miss her together.

I envy people who think they know what happens after death but I'm not one of them. I think it must be so much easier if you believe that xx happens after death and that they're up in heaven and you'll see them again or whatever. I've told my kids that I don't know and we've talked about the various things that people believe.

For us, it just came down to being open to talking all they wanted and being more gentle with them for a long time. I also pampered us in extra ways-- we went shopping one day and just bought sparkly shoes, for instance! LOL We cranked the radio and cuddled and had comfort food and were good to ourselves.

It's hard, but this stuff is also important for them. The early losses help them get stronger for later ones, as rough as that sounds. These things inevitably make them stronger, as long as we honestly deal with them and they're allowed to work through them.

(((((hugs))))) Thinking of you!