My husband died when my children were three and five years old. I realize that’s a sudden and abrupt way to start, but it happened to us very suddenly and abruptly, and I’ve rarely found a way to ease into that introduction.
Death came to our home in only twelve hours. Emergency room doctors diagnosed the flu, but it masked an infection in Robb’s blood stream. My husband was 35 and healthy, so very much here, and he died the next morning in our bedroom, two days before Christmas, 2010. My children slept in their beds while my husband’s spirit slipped through my fingers. I became a widowed single mom, 31-years-old, with two children not yet in kindergarten. It has been as bad as it sounds.
Nearly five years later, my guys are now eight and ten years old. I have dated but I haven’t remarried, so we’ve become a rock solid trio in a lifeboat big enough for three. We’ve been putting our pieces together, building a life out of meals and days and conversations, and sometimes the things we talk about are among the truest, most honest and raw topics and questions. Because that’s the way of death. It is true, honest, and raw, and I have learned that I must teach my children to talk about it if they will someday grow into men who can tell their own stories.
Here are a few things I know about talking to your children about grief, loss, and death.
They can handle the conversation. You can trust a human being with conversations about death, even small children who shouldn’t have to understand what it is. Let them talk, let them ask their questions, and allow them to say what they need to say. Healing comes in telling the stories a thousand times.
Let them process differently. When my boys were very small, their understanding of our family’s heartbreak came out in their play. My son lined up his matchbox cars on the kitchen floor, pairing them off as little married matchbox-car-couples, except for one little red car who parked alone “because her husband died.” For a long time, while other children played House or School, my children played a game called Daddy is Dying. A child’s work is his play. Children will put together the pieces of their world, broken or whole, when we let them work it out with their hands, words, and imaginations.
Click here to read the rest of my thoughts in my article
in the Parenting Pages of PJ Media.