If you’ve been with me here for a while, based on the title, you already know what I might say. If you don’t agree with me that’s just fine. I can only speak to my experience (along with tons of professional opinions I’ve gathered). People ask me questions about talking to kids about losing a loved one fairly frequently. Here are my thoughts:
Should you talk to your children about death? Yes.
Should children be involved in memorials, celebrations of life, burials, funerals? Yes.
Should children be able to ask questions about what happens to someone physically after they die? Yes.
Should children see adults sad or upset? YES.
Look, I get it. The last thing I ever wanted for my children was this. Really and truly, to look my 2 year daughter in the eye and tell her that her sister was gone killed me. It killed me even though I was certain I was already dead. As she gets older she asks again, she asks more and every time it still kills me. However, I am thankful she is comfortable enough to ask. Even if she didn’t, she would still wonder. She, along with her sister, have a safe place to ask all the questions they want. They will never be left wondering.
My biggest piece of advice is to answer questions in an age appropriate manner. You will answer your 12 year old’s question differently than your 5 year old’s.
Don’t shelter the death of a pet. Imagine a child going through their whole life not knowing that beings die. Their dog went to live on a farm and their fish returned to the ocean. What a lot to take in when Grandma dies. First, they’re losing someone they love and also wading through trying to figure out what death means.
Remember yourself as a child. You knew all kinds of things your parents didn’t think you knew. You saw all kinds of things your parents didn’t think you saw. Kids will see it even if you won’t talk about it.
Let them see your emotions. This is one of the hardest but also most helpful things I think you can do. Lead by example in the best way you can.
That’s all I’ve got. I’m not an expert but I’ve learned a lot. Hopefully this can shed some light for anyone who needs it.