It is an unfortunate fact of life that all lives will end with death. Some deaths come seemingly out of the blue, but others are seen weeks, months and even a year or more ahead of time. After a significant accident or with a serious illness, the death of a loved one can seem imminent and unavoidable. You may be having trouble coming to grips with the inevitable fate of a loved one yourself, but your kids can struggle even more significantly with their impending loss. This is often due to the fact that many kids have less experience with the grieving process.
When to Talk to Your Kids
The death of a loved one, even an expected death, can be traumatic for children. Talking to your kids about the likelihood or definite death of a close family member or friend can be difficult to do, but it can help to prepare your child for the loss. Preparing your children for such an event now can provide them with time to say goodbyes and ultimately set the stage for closure. However, when to talk to your kids about the death of a loved one is critical. An older, aging relative may appear to be struggling with deteriorating health, but he or she may continue to muddle along at an ever-slowing pace for several more years.
Talking to your child too early about an impending death may cause unnecessary sadness and pain when your child could otherwise be enjoying making new memories with that person. In other cases, however, a medical practitioner may have told the family to say your goodbyes and prepare for the loved one’s death. How and when you broach the subject of a loved one’s death will depend on the child and the circumstances. If a loved one’s death seems imminent, allow plenty of time for your child to say his goodbyes.
The fact is that many kids, and especially older kids, are aware that an older relative is nearing the end of his or her life. Kids may hear other adults talking, and some may even bring the subject of their health and possible death up on their own.
What to Say
Finding the words to talk to your kids about such an event can be difficult for a parent to do. You may be overcome with emotion yourself. It is OK to show your emotions to your kids, but try to remain calm while you talk to your kids so that they can get the information they need, and so you can answer the questions they have. Your children can be devastated by the news that a close family member or friend will no longer be with them soon. However, finding the right words can help your child find peace after an initial mourning period. Kids may hang onto the words you say, so take a few minutes before bringing the subject up to find the right words. . If the loved on is in pain, mention that he or she will no longer be suffering. Talk about your faith and personal beliefs regarding death.
There truly is little that you can say to ease the pain. Whether this person is a close friend or family member, he or she will certainly be missed. However, preparing your child for a death that soon will be happening can help to make the death easier to cope with.
Here are a few other articles written by this author:
How Positive is Your Parenting?
Helping Your Kids Through Fights with Friends
Kids and Friend Drama: When to Step In