GRAND Magazine - July/August 2018 - 12

invisible grands

Tips for talking about grief with children
BY PAT HANSON, PH.D.

G

rief is something we all need to address at
some point in our lives. This keen sense of
mental suffering over an affliction or loss
is part of the healing process and part of life. For
many of us it is difficult to acknowledge. Whether it
is the death of a pet, or separation of grandchildren
from grandparents for whatever reason, or an actual
death of a loved one; grief needs be faced.

"

Be truthful and use the word
death or separation. Avoid
confusing euphemisms like
"lost" or "gone away" or
"went to sleep" or "went to
a better place."

"

Below are some "Talking Tips" that will help you
and children communicate about grief. It's better to
talk through these delicate issues rather than "stuff
them." Research shows that when you least expect it
later in life, long-term avoidance can erupt into psychological or physical illnesses.
* Assess their understanding - consider a
child's age and stage of development before giving
too much information at one time. How close they
were to the person gone may affect how much of the
circumstances of the death or loss you wish to share.
* Keep it a dialogue by asking questions about
12 GRAND

MAY JUNE 2018

what they already know ... and don't be afraid to
admit you don't know something.
* Watch your language - Be truthful and
use the word death or separation. Avoid confusing
euphemisms like "lost" or "gone away" or "went to
sleep" or "went to a better place." These can cause
eating and sleeping difficulties at any age.
* Anticipate emotions - For both boys and
girls tears should be welcomed as important.
Christiane Northrup, MD author of Women's Bodies,
Women's Wisdom calls them emotional excision and
drainage.
* Reassure. Reassure. Children need to know
immediately that this is not their fault. Nothing they
may have said or done could have contributed to
this situation. They need to know they will be taken
care of.
* Involve children in decision making about
whether and when to attend a memorial, or make
plans to honor the missing grandparent in some way.
Suggest writing to them or their spirit on postcards to
let them know how they'll be doing.

* In particularly troublesome situations

involving drugs or suicide, talk about the person who
died in a caring and respectful way. Get some professional help for yourself, and possibly family therapy
involving the children.
* Model self-care - "When I am sad and upset, I
like to exercise and talk with friends. What helps you?"
Among the books you read regularly to kids, consider these popular children's books about death and
loss.

The Invisible String (Ages 3+) - Author

Patrice Karst - Illustrator Geoff Stevenson
Specifically written to address children's fear of
being apart from the ones they love,

Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After
Loss

Authors Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen If
you are going to buy only one book on grief, this
is the one to get! It will validate your grief experience, and you can share it with your children.
You can leave it on the coffee table, so others will
pick it up, read it, and then better appreciate your
grieving time.

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to
Understanding Death (Dino Life Guides
for Families)

(Ages 4-8) Author Laurie Krasny Brown,
Illustrator Marc Brown Straightforward and compassionate, When Dinosaurs Die explains death,
dying, and coping with grief and loss in simple
and accessible language for young kids and
families.

Click here to continue reading

Dr. Pat Hanson is a seasoned health educator,
public speaker, and workshop facilitator. She
is the author of Invisible Grandparenting:
Leave A Legacy Of Love Whether You Can Be
There or Not. She lectures nationally on Aging
Positively and is a columnist for the magazine:
Crone: Women Coming of Age.


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GRAND Magazine - July/August 2018

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