The time of death can be mystifying and troubling to a young person. We at Pillsbury Funeral Home, help children understand the processes of dying, death and bereavement and how it affects their lives. Our children's program offers interactive discussions of what happens when a person dies, what the children will see, and examination of the caskets help children deal with the situation in an honest and caring setting before seeing their grandparent or other loved one. We encourage children to be part of the funeral by putting pictures, letters or other meaningful items in the casket. Young people may also act as honorary pallbearers during the service.
Should the Children Know?
Learning to accept death is a natural experience in life which, must not be ignored. Talking about death is necessary. It is a vital part of every child's development.
How Should I Explain Death?
Death is a subject most of us do not like to talk about but eventually we all have to face it. We, at Pillsbury Funeral Home would like to help prepare your family before the need arises. We have designed a program to meet the needs of your family, in respect to the ages of your children, your faith issues and cultural beliefs.
When & How do we Participate?
Individual appointments will be made for your family or group at a time that is mutually convenient to your family and ours. The program is best conducted at Pillsbury Funeral Home this gives the children more of a hands on approach to learning. The intention of the program is to give a better understanding, and remove the mystery around what happens when a person dies. Depending on the ages of your children, and the size of your family or group, we would like you to allow us 60 minutes for discussion, tour, and questions.
What Ages Should Attend?
If the child is old enough to walk let him/her walk with you into the funeral home, if not carry them in with you.
Caring for a Surviving Child
As in all situations, honesty is the best way to deal with children. Talk to the child in a language that they can understand. Remember to listen to the child and try to understand what the child is saying and just as importantly, what they are not saying. Children need to feel that the death is an open subject and that they can express their thoughts or questions as they arise. Below are just a few ways adults can help children face the death of someone close to them.
Adults can help prepare a child deal with future loses of those who are significant by helping the child handle smaller losses through sharing their feelings when a pet dies or when death is discussed in a story or on television.
In helping children understand and cope with death, remember four key concepts: Be Loving, Be Accepting, Be Truthful and Be Consistent.
Explanations That May Not Help
Outlined below are explanations that adults may give to a child to explain why the person they loved his died. Unfortunately, simple but dishonest answers can only serve to increase the fear and uncertainty that the child is feeling. Children tend to be very literal — if an adult says that "Grandpa/Grandma died because they were old and tired," the child may wonder when they too will be too old and they certainly get tired. How tired is tired enough to die?
How to Help a Child Deal with Loss
a) As soon as possible after the death, set time aside to talk to the child.
b) Give the child the facts in a simple manner, and be careful not to go into too much detail. The child will ask more questions as they come up in their mind.
c) If you can't answer his/her questions, it's OK to say, "I don't know how to answer that, but perhaps we can find someone to help us."
d) Use the correct language — say the words "dead" and "die". Do not use phrases such as, "He's sleeping," or "God took her," or "He went away."
e) Ask questions like, "What are you feeling?" "What have you heard from your friends?" "What do you think has happened?" etc.
f) Explain your feelings to your children, especially if you are crying. Give them permission to cry too. We are their role models: it is good for children to see our sadness and to share our feelings with them.
g) Use the given name of the deceased when speaking of him or her.
h) Understand the age and level of comprehension of your child and speak to that level.
i) Talk about feelings, such as angry, sad feeling responsible, scared, tearful, depressed, wishing to die too, etc.
j) Read a book on death to your child. (Visit your local lending resource library)
k) Read a book on childhood grief so you have a better understanding of what they may be experiencing.
l) Talk about the visitation period and funeral. Explain what happens there and find out if your child wants to attend with the rest of your family.
m) Think about ways that a child can say goodbye to the deceased, such as writing a letter, poem, drawing a picture, etc.
n) Talk to your child about your religious beliefs, if appropriate, and what happens to people after they die.
o) Invite your child to come back to you if they have more questions or have heard rumours so that you can help them receive the correct information.
p) Talk about memories, good ones and ones that may not be so good.
q) Watch for behaviour changes in your child - if they are cause for concern, seek professional help.
r) Watch out for "bad dreams" - are they occurring often? Talk about the dreams: they are a way to discharge stress.
s) Friends, family and school mates frequently find solace and comfort in doing something special in the name of the person who has died.
t) Sudden death, violent death and the death of a young person are especially hard to grieve. Disruption of sleep, appetite, and daily activities may be normal responses to an abnormal or unusual event.
Where do children fit in?