When A List of Do’s and Don’ts Are Needed
When our son Jason passed away, his brothers had a very hard time understanding why their little brother was gone. Jason’s Daddy and I had no idea why he had to leave us. So, with that in mind, what could we possibly tell them? Dylan was 4 and Brett was 6. They are very smart little boys, but I don’t think Einstein could explain that one. Since we have a belief in God, we explained to them that God has a plan for Jason. We won’t know what that is until it’s our time to go, but we have to trust. We made sure that Brett and Dylan understand that Jason is still around us and still loves us as much as he did when he was here. They pray to Jason, talk to him, tell him things we did that day and every once in a while and on special occasions we let a balloon go for Jason. If you were to ask Brett or Dylan if they have a little brother, they would say “Yes, but he died”. If you ask them where is Jason, they would reply “He’s in our hearts and with God”. It breaks my heart and makes me proud all at the same time.
Words don’t make much difference. Behaviors do. Whether you are awkward or articulate in explaining death to a child makes little difference. It is how you behave that is important. Few words are needed at all when you bring reassurance to a child, of any age, in the form of accepting love.
Here is a summary of do’s and don’ts:
- Do be open with your own emotions – “I’m very sad.”
- Do be explicit about why you feel as you do – “Grandma died.”
- Do be specific about why the death occurred – “Mother died of the disease called cancer.”
- Do be short on word answers and long on hugs of reassurance.
- Do include children of all ages in the family’s rituals of leave-taking.
- Don’t talk too much. Answer only those questions a child asks.
- Don’t try to do your children’s mourning for them. You won’t succeed.
- Don’t pass off the child’s fears as inappropriate. They are real.
- Don’t pretend that nothing significant has happened.
- Don’t try to stop the mourning process.
- Don’t provide junk food or drink for your children.