When Helping Children Deal with Loss of a Loved One Heals You As Well

When Helping Children Deal with Loss of a Loved One Heals You As Well

“2016: The year my childhood died.”

I saw this on my Facebook feed yesterday morning and I couldn’t agree more.

Seriously. Prince, David Bowie, Alan Thicke, George Michael and now Carrie Fisher?

Ironically, discussing the deaths of these iconic fixtures of my younger years, in particular Prince, has helped my children (especially the 8-year old) process the recent passing of their grandfather. Because she and I had several in-depth discussions about where Prince went after he passed, Sage understood that Grandpa went to the afterworld as well.

The idea of death is not an easy thing to wrap your mind around regardless of your age. Seeing so many celebrities that you admire pass on is bad enough but then to have death hit you so close to home and right before the holidays is a double-, triple-, quadruple-whammy. (No pun intended. RIP George Michael.)

These are the tactics that I used to help the Bernardo children grieve the loss of Grandpa:

  1. Be straightforward and honest with them. Using the comfort of our Catholic faith definitely helps me to be straightforward with my children about the finality of their grandfather’s death. Believing that Grandpa (and Prince and George Michael and Princess Leia) is now in Heaven helps ease the pain of their loss knowing that their loved one is no longer suffering; instead he is enjoying eternal life and we will see him again one day. This method obviously wouldn’t work for those who have a different perspective and believe that their loved one is no longer suffering because they no longer exist. But no matter what your view is, it’s important to be honest with your children.
  2. Explain what happens during the funeral service and burial. Again, using our Catholic faith, I explained to my 8-year old that Grandpa has left his Earth body and now has his new Heaven body. I know this might seem a little cheesy to say but it is the best way I can think of to explain what happens when we bury Grandpa. I want to ease her mind and let her know that it is just Grandpa’s Earth body, which he no longer needs, that we are burying.
  3. Listen to what they have to say. I found it important to validate my children’s feelings and let them know that it’s ok to be sad and upset. But I also reassured them that they will be able to move on from this grief. By the same token, allowing the kids to laugh and re-tell funny anecdotes about Grandpa lets them know that they’re not always going to be sad and upset. And this, too, is ok.
  4. Give them a chance to console us. I will admit, I cried in front of my children the morning I heard of my father-in-law’s passing. While a big part of me initially thought I should stay strong and not let them see my sadness, I soon realized that it would be a good thing for them to see me cry. This tells them that it’s ok to cry and also gives them the opportunity to be the consoler which I believe helps in their healing process.

If there is a bright side to helping my children mourn the loss of their grandfather, it’s that I’m able to find some healing as well. It’s been about a week since Grandpa passed but it’s comforting to know that we can collectively mend. We are without a doubt going to need each other when we lay him to rest next week but it’s good to know that we can get through it together.

I am so ready for 2016 to be over.


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  • Karen Larsen says:

    Sending you much love and support as you travel this grieving path.

    Warrior on dear friend!

  • Savannah says:

    My son is still very small, so thankfully I have not had to discuss the topic of death with him. But, I vividly remember dealing with it with my 4 year old nephew after my brother unexpectedly died. Being honest with them, and being honest about emotions is so important and so so healing for everyone in the family. Thanks for covering such an important topic <3

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