When a loved one is dying, adults have a tremendous amount of resources to turn to, including hospice care workers, clergy, and close family and friends. However, children usually do not have access to such resources and must rely on their parents for answers and comfort. While it is difficult to guide your children through the grieving process while you are grieving yourself, it's vital that you do all you can do help your children navigate the confusion and pain caused by someone's death. To that end, the following are three things you should never do to your children when a loved one is dying or dies.
Keep Them in The Dark
A lot of people feel that children, especially young children, are best kept in the dark when someone dies. They figure the less they know, the better. Unfortunately, this does not protect children from the harsh realities of life. It only confuses them more. Always explain the concept of death to your children and encourage them to ask questions. Do not shade the truth. Be honest and up front. Avoid glossing over death by making statements like, "They are sleeping." If you are brutally honest without being cruel, your children will be able to understand what's actually happening, which will help them grieve appropriately.
Avoid Explaining Death
Never avoid explaining death. In fact, you have to make yourself very clear when explaining death to children by explaining the mechanics of death. Explain to your children that their loved one is not breathing anymore and that they cannot feel pain. Tell them that their organs are not working and that they don't have to eat anymore. Also, don't be afraid to explain the process of burial and cremation. If you wait until the funeral, your children will be confused and scared by what they see.
Place Unnecessary Burden on Them
Allow your children to grieve in their own way and do not place additional burden on them. While you may think you're helping by telling them to be brave, you're not. If they are not crying, don't be alarmed. Children grieve differently than adults. Do not tell your children that they must cry. You should also avoid telling them that now they have to step up and take on more responsibilities.
Death is scary for everyone, especially children. As their parent, you're responsible for helping them sort out their emotions and make sense of something that most adults have difficulty wrapping their head around. If you are unsure how to help your children, talk to your hospice care nurse, such Orchard Hill at Sudbury Assisted Living Community.