Soon I will have to tell them. When we get the call, they will need to know. A beloved uncle of ours is actively dying.
So I sit and ponder, how do I best explain this to our children? Death is hard for adults to handle, how do I help my children cope with it? Our children know their uncle is very sick and that yes, sometimes people die from cancer. We all just thought there would be more time. This has just been so quick! The quickness is ultimately a blessing in disguise.
This is what I know and this is what some research has told me. Our children need to know when it occurs. What we tell them, is largely determined by their age. Up until five or six, children are very concrete in their thinking.— Thus, the facts and a simple explanation for our youngest girl. Our two year-old will never know our uncle, the way girls do. It saddens me that he will hear about him thru stories, as opposed to memories he can recall of his own. May his little self bring joy and comfort to those around him in these sad days.
Our oldest may have a fuller explanation. She is nine years old. Of the children, she has known her great uncle the longest. She has a greater understanding that death is final and death happens to all of us, and to all creatures in nature. For younger children, this isn’t necessarily the case. They may think their grandma, grandfather, or other loved will come back. Going back to explanations, they say never to refer to your loved one as having gone to sleep; that she has gone away; or has been taken home. This is confusing and potentially scary to the child. Children need the facts. They also need to fully be able to voice their feelings and thoughts on the matter, in an extremely supportive way. Some children will be more articulate with this, while others will not.
Death is an inevitable part of life. When someone dies, children may become scared about dying or having mommy or daddy die. While children need to know death is inevitable, they need to need to know they have their full lives ahead of them and most people don’t die until they are very old.
All cultures have traditions and rituals regarding death. The experts say that if faith beliefs are a part of your life, this needs to be incorporated into your explanation. If your children attend the funeral, you are to explain what they may see. Some people will be crying and upset during the funeral, while other people will not. The experts say this decision is a personal one for each family, and also somewhat based on age. It is also based on what role the person who died had in your child’s life and what you think your child can handle seeing. Mommy and daddy also need to be able to grieve sufficiently and not be distracted by keeping their children quiet or still.
While death is inevitable and the experts (such as WebMD and Kidshealth) all weigh in on how to hand the issue, I am still grappling with how to do this right. Right now, I am waiting for the actual event to occur. I turn to my faith for guidance. I grieve and try to be strong for my aunt and my cousin who are going through this terrible time. I will do these things, so our children can, too….