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Old 01-24-2012, 06:12 PM
 
Location: El Paso, TX
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I joined a an organization that is focused on helping children dealing with the death of a loved one.

I had to take a class on how to help them in group sessions by facilitating. One of the cornerstones of the program is that the children need to be told the loved one died and why however cruel that may sound.
The concept is that it is better to let them know and help them deal with their grief right away instead of slowing the grieving process.

Some parents do not tell the kids right away with the intent of avoiding pain.

Others may not take the kids to the funeral.

Also, the program guidelines are that instead of telling them a loved one is with God now is better to say the loved one died, plain and simple. If the child ask how the loved one died to say because he/she took his life if that was the case.


What do you think?
What are your opinions on how to handle a situation like this?
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Old 01-24-2012, 07:48 PM
 
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Is the policy the same regardless of the children's ages? I would tailor what I told them depending on the age, for sure. I don't think a young child would understand suicide, or the situations that might drive somebody to take their life.

My kids have only dealt with the death of three grandparents so far, and two of them died when the boys were very young. We did not take them to the funerals of their paternal grandparents, because when their grandfather died they were very young, and when their grandmother died my husband and I were already with her, and had left the boys home at school several states away.

When my father died two years ago, the boys knew the end was imminent, and had visited him within the days prior. In that case, he was cremated and there was no funeral.

I personally am not a fan of funerals or viewings. I have never hidden the reality of an illness from my kids, but they have also never attended a funeral. Since their one remaining grandmother wants to be cremated, as do my husband and I, they could conceivably never have to attend one.
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Old 01-24-2012, 08:00 PM
 
Location: Geneva, IL
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Great post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mattie View Post
Is the policy the same regardless of the children's ages? I would tailor what I told them depending on the age, for sure. I don't think a young child would understand suicide, or the situations that might drive somebody to take their life.
I agree. I think a lot depends on the age of the child, the temperament of that child, and the environment they live in. I think telling children the manner of death is very debatable. There have been a number of traumatic deaths in my husband's family over the last few years, and there is absolutely no way we would ever have discussed the details with our children.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mattie View Post
I personally am not a fan of funerals or viewings.
Me neither. I think children should only go to funerals if the child and the parents both think it's okay. They are very traumatic experiences for most kids.
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Old 01-24-2012, 08:57 PM
 
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This will be my first time saying it here...My husband died just over a year ago, he was 36 and we have 4 children raging in age from 17-3 (at the time of his death). So I have dealt with this first hand, in a wide age range in regards to the kids.

That being said, yes I agree with the recommendations of your class. It is not cruel to tell them the truth and tell them everything, if you leave anything open for their imaginations they will imagine all sorts of things and yes it is better for them to deal with their grief head on as opposed to saving them from pain. They don't need specific details of the death but will want to know generally what happened. The child's mind is a strange and blessed thing. It will not let them grasp the enormity of the loss all at once, and up until about age 6 they really don't grasp death as a permanent thing. Which was especially difficult for me with my then 3yo, only a few months ago did he stop asking when Daddy was not going to be died ( his words).

My younger children (the 3yo and 5yo), did not go to the funeral and I debated on that for a little bit. With my older 2, we had taken them to funerals at young ages so we could talk about it and show them (hopefully) that they were not to be feared but a time to say goodbye to our loved ones. I debated on the younger 2 until I talked to a therapist who agreed, the first funeral a child attends should not be of one of their parents. The older 2 (17 & 12) were involved in as much of the planning and funeral as they were comfortable with.

As for telling them that they are with God, I believe that if the family believes in God then it is ok to tell them that. I tell my kids that Daddy is in heaven because that's where I believe he is. I do not think it would be a good idea for anyone outside of immediate family to tell children that because the family's belief might be something different and that could be confusing for small children.

So here we are just over a year later and I think I am handling things pretty well, I have no regrets yet as to how I handled things but I guess that could change being that they are going to be grieving on and off their whole lives.
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Old 01-25-2012, 02:50 PM
 
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I agree 150% that honesty is the correct way to go. As with other topics that might be difficult to understand, give them as much information as they can handle. But no lies, no pretty stories. No storks. No went to sleep. (Can you imagine making a link between sleeping and never waking up! SCARY!)

People die. They will learn it now. Better not at the expense of your credibility.
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Old 01-25-2012, 04:02 PM
 
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Personally, I don't think there is a one size fits all in this regard. There are so many factors to consider. Some already mentioned..... age, temperament, personality, level of understanding. Add into that the relationship of the person who died to be a huge factor. Another thing to consider is what kind of funeral it is. Some are upbeat, celebrations of one's life. Others are grieving, emotional outpourings.

My 4 children are all different when it comes to what they understood at various ages and in their comfort levels. One has always been deeply emotional and empathetic, another chooses to avoid the subject of death and has very little desire to be included, another approaches it more scientifically and the last has a need for total understanding and involvement. My approach with them is different for each.

The one thing though that I stand firm on, is honesty...appropriate for the age.
That goes back to when I was a child and a neighbor's son had a brain tumor. They lied to his sister, a good friend of mine, that he was fine and would be fine. He wasn't and when he died she was devastated. Our parents had told us the truth and that she was not to know the truth under any circumstances. It was absolutely the wrong thing to do in that case.......heartbreaking.
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Old 01-25-2012, 04:39 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia, PA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skahar View Post
This will be my first time saying it here...My husband died just over a year ago, he was 36 and we have 4 children raging in age from 17-3 (at the time of his death). So I have dealt with this first hand, in a wide age range in regards to the kids.

That being said, yes I agree with the recommendations of your class. It is not cruel to tell them the truth and tell them everything, if you leave anything open for their imaginations they will imagine all sorts of things and yes it is better for them to deal with their grief head on as opposed to saving them from pain. They don't need specific details of the death but will want to know generally what happened. The child's mind is a strange and blessed thing. It will not let them grasp the enormity of the loss all at once, and up until about age 6 they really don't grasp death as a permanent thing. Which was especially difficult for me with my then 3yo, only a few months ago did he stop asking when Daddy was not going to be died ( his words).

My younger children (the 3yo and 5yo), did not go to the funeral and I debated on that for a little bit. With my older 2, we had taken them to funerals at young ages so we could talk about it and show them (hopefully) that they were not to be feared but a time to say goodbye to our loved ones. I debated on the younger 2 until I talked to a therapist who agreed, the first funeral a child attends should not be of one of their parents. The older 2 (17 & 12) were involved in as much of the planning and funeral as they were comfortable with.

As for telling them that they are with God, I believe that if the family believes in God then it is ok to tell them that. I tell my kids that Daddy is in heaven because that's where I believe he is. I do not think it would be a good idea for anyone outside of immediate family to tell children that because the family's belief might be something different and that could be confusing for small children.

So here we are just over a year later and I think I am handling things pretty well, I have no regrets yet as to how I handled things but I guess that could change being that they are going to be grieving on and off their whole lives.
skahar - I am so very, very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing how you helped your children cope through the first year. Sending you and your kids all of my best thoughts.

Re the OP: I also think age-appropriate honesty is the best policy. What that honesty is going to look like will vary based on the individual child.

Last edited by eastwesteastagain; 01-25-2012 at 04:48 PM..
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Old 01-25-2012, 07:20 PM
Status: "Even better than okay" (set 7 days ago)
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
51,182 posts, read 50,480,930 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elamigo View Post
I joined a an organization that is focused on helping children dealing with the death of a loved one.

I had to take a class on how to help them in group sessions by facilitating. One of the cornerstones of the program is that the children need to be told the loved one died and why however cruel that may sound.
The concept is that it is better to let them know and help them deal with their grief right away instead of slowing the grieving process.

Some parents do not tell the kids right away with the intent of avoiding pain.

Others may not take the kids to the funeral.

Also, the program guidelines are that instead of telling them a loved one is with God now is better to say the loved one died, plain and simple. If the child ask how the loved one died to say because he/she took his life if that was the case.


What do you think?
What are your opinions on how to handle a situation like this?
My cousin died when we were both six. She had leukemia. I knew she was sick but didn't know she could die.

It was bad because before that I used to cry too much and was made fun of for it by my mother and other family members. I tried very hard and by the time my cousin died, I'd learned to stop myself from crying. Unfortunately, not allowing myself to grieve was not a good response. I had issues with depression and obsessions with death and dying for the rest of my life, and I trace them back to that day when my mother (sobbing dramatically, of course, it was OK for HER to cry) told me my cousin had died. I went to my room and sat on my bed and used every bit of strength I had not to cry.

I wasn't allowed to go to the funeral, either.

I say tell the kids the truth. Tell them grieving and sadness is normal and OK.
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Old 01-29-2012, 07:41 PM
 
Location: El Paso, TX
3,302 posts, read 3,754,492 times
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A situation:
A child is about 6.
His father died.
The child asks "Where is dad"

What do you say?
Take care.
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Old 01-29-2012, 08:18 PM
 
Location: Jersey
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My grandfather died when I was 8, i remember it very well. I was told he wasnt feeling well and wasnt available when I called. A week later I was told he died. He had been in the hospital with heart failure but noone wanted to upset me and thus i wasnt allowed to say goodbye. Im still upset. I was allowed to attend his wake, but not his funeral, which I am still mad about. I wanted to go. They didnt let me say goodbye in the hospital and didnt want to me to say goodbye at this funeral either.

My mother died when I was 13. She went into the hospital while I was in NJ from NC visiting my father. It was my summer break. She was in the hospital 2 weeks before anyone told me, they only told me because she wasnt getting better. I almost lost my mother without saying goodbye because the adults in my life thought they knew better. I had to tell them I was coming home, because she is my mother.

The truth is easier to swallow now than the truth later. Kids need honesty, even if someone sugarcoated with the "they are no longer in pain" "God is with them" etc, kids deserve the truth.

To answer the above, sit him down and talk to him. If you are religious explain about heaven. If not religious explain that everyone has a time to go and dad had his time. It will be tough but your job as a support person in his life is to support his grieving process. Dont forget that the process for even children includes grief, anger, and denial. Children need time too.
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