The Time of Death can be mystifying and troubling to a young person. We at Families First help children understand the processes of dying, death and bereavement and how it affects their lives.Our children's program offers interactive discussions of what happens when a person dies, what the children will see, and examination of the caskets help children deal with the situation in an honest and caring setting before seeing their grandparent or other loved one. We encourage children to be part of the funeral by putting pictures, letters or other meaningful items in the casket. Young people may also act as honorary pallbearers during the service.
Should The Children Know?
Learning to accept death is a natural experience in life which, must not be ignored. Talking about death is necessary. It is a vital part of every child's development.
Death is a subject most of us do not like to talk about but eventually we all have to face it. We, at Colonial Chapel would like to help prepare your family before the need arises. We have designed a program to meet the needs of your family, in respect to the ages of your children, your faith issues and cultural beliefs.
When & How Do We Participate?
Individual appointments will be made for your family or group at a time that is mutually convenient to your family and ours. The program is best conducted at Colonial Chapel. This gives the children more of a hands on approach to learning. The intention of the program is to give a better understanding, and remove the mystery around what happens when a person dies. Depending on the ages of your children, and the size of your family or group, we would like you to allow us 60 minutes for discussion, tour, and questions.
What age should attend?
If the child is old enough to walk let him/her walk with you into the funeral home, if not carry them in with you.
As in all situations, honesty is the best way to deal with children. Talk to the child in a language that they can understand. Remember to listen to the child and try to understand what the child is saying and just as importantly, what they are not saying. Children need to feel that the death is an open subject and that they can express their thoughts or questions as they arise. Below are just a few ways adults can help children face the death of someone close to them.
1. The child's first concern may be"Who is going to take care of me now?"
2. The child will probably have many questions and may need to ask them again and again.
3. The child will not know appropriate behavior for the situation.
4. The child may fear that they also may die or that they somehow caused the death.
5. The child may wish to be a part of the family rituals.
6. The child may show regressive behavior.
Adults can help prepare a child deal with future loses of those who are significant by helping the child handle smaller losses through sharing their feelings when a pet dies or when death is discussed in a story or on television.
In helping children understand and cope with death, remember four key concepts: Be Loving, Be Accepting, Be Truthful and Be Consistent.
EXPLANATIONS THAT MAY NOT HELP
Outlined below are explanations that adults may give to a child to explain why the person they loved has died. Unfortunately, simple, but dishonest answers can only serve to increase the fear and uncertainty that the child is feeling. Children tend to be very literal - - if an adult says that "Grandpa/Grandma died because they were old and tired" the child may wonder when they too will be too old and they certainly get tired - - what is tired enough to die?
1. "Grandpa/Grandma will sleep in peace forever."This explanation may result in child's fear of going to bed or to sleep.
2. "It is God's will". The child will not understand a God who takes a loved one because He needs that person Himself, or"God took him because he was so good."The child may decide to be bad so God won't take him too.
3. "Daddy/Mommy went on a long trip and won't be back for a long time."The child may wonder why the person left without saying goodbye. Eventually they will realize Daddy/Mommy isn't coming back and feel that something they did caused Daddy/Mommy to leave.
4. "John was sick and went to the hospital where he died." The child will need an explanation about"Little" and"Big" sicknesses. Otherwise, they may be extremely fearful if they or someone they love has to go to the hospital in the future.
Many parents never stop to think about what they will do with the children when a loved one dies. Probably most wonder who they will get to baby-sit the children while they attend the funeral. Excluding children from the funeral will delay their grieving and hinder their ability to deal with death and loss later in life. Here are some practical ideas that have worked well.
1. Give children the opportunity to draw a picture of a happy memory they have of the person who has died. This picture can be placed in the casket or with the urn.
2. Have a child write a letter to the person who has died. This gives the child the opportunity to say, "I love you" one more time and to say goodbye. Put the letter in the casket or with the urn.
3. A child can either pick flowers from the garden at home or buy flowers and place them either in or on the casket or by the urn.
4. Older children can act as honorary pallbearers or can read a selection at the funeral. They could also act as ushers at the funeral.
5. You will find it very helpful to spend time explaining to the children what a funeral is about and what will happen. Taking them to the funeral home for the visitation or wake is helpful in making them feel comfortable in those surroundings. The day of the funeral will be much easier for them if this happens.