How to Use the Books
This tender booklet is intended to help families grieve and heal together after loss. By sharing special memories and feelings, the love which was so real in life will live on in the hearts of those who are bereaved.
The stages of grief are different for every family and every child. There will be a stage when this booklet will be a comfort for you and your child(ren). Only you will know when that time has come. You may know by the questions your child is asking.
You may wish to use it with a child who has difficulty asking questions or expressing grief. You may find it helpful days, weeks, months or even years later.
The feelings and thoughts the booklet evokes will be most vivid in the weeks immediately following your loss, and then may serve as a resource for keeping those images and memories truly alive for a lifetime. However, evoking such memories in the immediate days or weeks following such a great loss will not be easy. It is perfectly all right for you to be sad and to share tears together as you go through this process. It is best for you to do this at a time when you will also be able to laugh when sharing happy memories.
Sometimes children may not want to think about their loss. They may just need to play and avoid the pain or sadness they feel. This is normal. Sometimes they may feel angry, and will not wish to evoke the memories and feelings the activities in the booklet elicit. This is normal too. If children seem uninterested, simply let them know that the booklet is there for you to do together another time, when they feel more like looking at it with you. Put it in a special place, and let your child know where it will be. When using the booklet, gauge how much to do by your child’s interest and mood. A few pages at a time are best for most children, and may be best for you too.
Many children will worry that something bad could now happen to them, or to you. They will be concerned about their security, or may want to know if they will be getting someone to replace the one who is gone. It is best if these concerns find a voice. This booklet may be the catalyst for these kinds of questions.
Answer questions in a straightforward manner, as truthfully and simply as you can. Be reassuring. Sometimes it can help if you ask your children what they think the answer to their question may be before you respond. This can help you to know what they are thinking, or what they are most concerned about. For example, a child who asks “Where IS Mommy now?” may be wondering about many different things. By asking him/her to first share their own thoughts with you, you will have a better frame of reference for your response.
Art can be a comforting way for children to express their feelings. There are several pages in the book which call for a picture. Have markers or crayons available before you begin. If your child likes to draw, you may wish to have extra paper available for additional pictures. Some children may prefer to use real photographs in their booklet. You may wish to have some handy for that purpose. If this seems particularly appealing to your child, you may wish to use this booklet as part of a larger photo album or collection.
Don’t hesitate to skip questions or entire pages or they are not comfortable for you or your child. Perhaps you will want to make up more pages of your own. Review the booklet thoroughly ahead of time to look for questions your child may not know the answer to, such as Mommy’s favorite color. If you come to such a question, provide your child with the information ahead of time. You may wish to say, “This next part asks about Daddy’s favorite color. Did you know Daddy’s favorite color was blue?” This will help impart this knowledge in a subtle way, and prevent your child from feeling he/she should have known the answer.
While working together on this project, you may sense the opportunity to provide your child with a physical reminder such as a favorite CD, sweater, journal, piece of jewelry or sport equipment, or other physical items. Such items may become cherished keepsakes.
A professional counselor can help you learn more about how children experience grief, and can assist you and your family through this very difficult time. Please do not hesitate to reach out for professional help.
Our deepest sympathy goes out to all those who have lost a loved one. We hope that your hearts will soon heal, and that you will find joy again.
What Bereaved Children Want Adults To Know About Grief
by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
- Allow children to be the teachers about their grief experiences.
- Don’t assume every child in a certain age group understands death the same way or has the same feelings.
- Healing in grief is a process, not an event.
- Don’t tell half-truths to children!
- Don’t wait for one big tell-all to begin to help children understand death.
- Encourage children to ask questions about death.
- Don’t assume that children always grieve in some kind of orderly and predictable way.
- Let children know that you really want to understand.
- Don’t misunderstand what may seem to be a lack of feelings when someone loved dies.
- Allow children to participate in the funeral.
- Don’t forget about the concept of magical thinking.
- Remember that feeling relief doesn’t mean a lack of love.
- Realize that children’s bodies react when they experience grief.
- Don’t feel bad when you can’t give children total understanding about religion and death.
- Keep in mind that grief is complicated.