Talking to Children about Death

The average mesothelioma patient is 65 years old, so it’s natural to assume that many mesothelioma patients are grandparents. Quite often, a child’s first experience with death is the passing of a grandparent. Topics like death and mortality can be difficult to comprehend at any age, and especially so for children. In this article, you will learn about some ways to handle the questions and emotions that arise as kids cope with the death of a loved one.

When discussing death with a child, what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say. Experts agree that lying to a child about death is a bad move. Telling a child that grandma is “sleeping” may only cause confusion. Why can’t I see grandma? When will she wake up? What will happen to me when I go to sleep? Instead, talk to your child about their grandparent’s illness and explain that grandma or grandpa was ready to go and is no longer feeling any pain.

Be mindful of how you deal with your own emotions surrounding the death of a loved one and remember that your child is looking to you for emotional guidance. If your sadness becomes debilitating or turns to anger or inappropriate behavior, your child may mirror this. This isn’t a healthy way for either of you to handle grief. Help your child see that no emotion is right or wrong, but it’s how you deal with emotions that really makes the difference.

Of course you feel sad when a loved one dies, but for your child’s sake it’s important not to dwell on that sadness too much. Make time to discuss happy memories you shared with your loved one who has passed on and to celebrate his or her life. Talk about character traits you loved in that person, tell funny stories, or take out pictures. While it’s natural and right to be sad when a loved one dies, it is possible to temper that sadness with bitter-sweet emotions.

Some children act out in times of emotional difficulty. If this happens, you may want to take a moment to sit down in a quiet spot and discuss what your child is feeling and suggest better ways of handling his or her emotions. This is a time when extra hugs are essential, and when your child needs to know that he or she has a strong support network.

For many children, when something goes wrong or when something painful happens, they feel as though they are to blame. It is very important that you explain to your child or grandchild that death is a natural part of life, and that a death from cancer isn’t anybody’s fault. Perhaps you can discuss the way that flowers die, or how leaves die in the autumn as a way to help your child understand the natural cycle of life.

Sometimes it is helpful to assist your child in experiencing closure. Since most children don’t actually see their loved one die, it can be difficult to grasp the concept that grandma or grandpa isn’t coming back. Try having him or her write a letter to grandma or grandpa, releasing balloons, or planting a tree as a remembrance.

These are just a few tips you can turn to when helping your child deal with the death of a loved one. Of course, you know your child best and you may feel that some of these ideas are inappropriate for your situation, or you may come up with other ways to help your child cope. The key is to make sure your child feels as though his or her questions have been answered and that he or she feels loved and comforted. With care and compassion, you and your child will get through this difficult time together and learn to cherish memories of your departed loved one.


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