Parenting, Death, and Grieving

For young kids dealing with death can be hard. As parents what do we tell them? How can we help our kids cope with a loss? Here are a few ideas that may help...
by Stacey Schifferdecker

But I Don’t Know What to Say!
In my childhood years, I don’t young boy crying at his Dads gravesideremember being touched by death. I don’t remember any classmates dieing or any of their parents dieing. Was I oblivious or were we just lucky? I guess I’ll never know the answer to that question. But I can walk through the halls of my children’s schools and see children from five different families whose fathers have died during their school years. When I take my daughter to cheerleading practice, we see a little girl whose mother recently died. And when we go to church, we see two girls whose father died a few years ago, and we see a mom whose ten-year-old son died last November. 
What this means is that my kids have had to learn what to say to people who are grieving. I admit I do not excel in this area. I want to say something comforting, I want to be helpful, but I often find myself tongue-tied and feeling useless. I am trying to be a better role model, though, and teach my children to
  •  Just say you’re sorry. As much as we want to say the ultimate comforting words, they probably don’t exist.
  • But a sincere “I’m sorry” expresses concern and shares sorrow.
  • Give a hug or a pat on the shoulder. These simple gestures let the grieving person know you care.
  • Make a card or write a letter.
  • Share a story about the person who has died.
  • Be available to listen.
  • Pray for others.
Above all, I am teaching my children that it is okay to talk about the person who has died. Too often we feel uncomfortable or we don’t want to remind people of their loss so we don’t say anything. But of course they do remember their loss and often want to talk about it. They don’t want their loved one to be forgotten.
Children tend to have loving natures and can be a great comfort to a grieving person. Teaching our children to simply “be there” for a grieving person can be agreat gift to everyone.
Biography Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.
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  • It is such a sad thing to think about but something very important to talk about. You hate to think that your children will be touched by death but it is bound to happen that they will know someone who has lost a loved one. I really like the suggestions you make. Teaching our children to be supportive, sincere, and available to grieving friends is an important lesson.

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