When my Mother passed away 9 years ago, my Daughter (H’Boo) was only 3 years old. She knew that Nanna was ill and had been in and out if hospital for 14 months. My Mother doted on her 8th Grandchild and expected her to be the last.
It was a difficult time for me, I was going through divorce at the same time and her Father was not very sympathetic.
I anticipated that she would 1) not understand & 2) it would be upsetting for her to try and understand.
I chose therefore to not say anything until a year later, when I felt I could cope with the explanation and given it had been a year since she saw her, that it should be easier …..
How wrong I was … At 4 years the news was a terrific blow and I found myself grieving all over again with her.
H’Boo is now 12 and her younger Sister (K’Boo) is that golden age of 4.
Only last week, a friend of mine was killed in a tragic accident, witnessed by his Wife and two children …. We would once spend every Wednesday morning and and a chunk of the afternoon in perfect family happy times at our favourite play centre. The children playing happily, pretending to have their own table for lunch and us parents sharing the ups and downs of our family lives – mostly ups and always with many welcomed interruptions from the children.
I made the instant decision to tell K’Boo when I picked her up from nursery that her friend’s Daddy was gone and that they would miss him very much ….
Her response was that the fairies would come and sprinkle fairy dust and he would wake up. I felt a lump in my throat when I said “No Darling, he was hurt too much & the fairies can’t do that”.
When her own Daddy came home she ran to him and said “Daddy! Something awful has happened. L & K’s Daddy has died, his bones are hurt and he can’t ever wake up”
The lump returned and she cuddled me as I cried.
Today, I visited my Brother with K’Boo, only a few weeks after their family pet had died. “Where is Ruby” she said.
My Brother responded “She gone to Heaven.” K’Boo – “What do you mean”
My Brother – “She’s gone to Doggie Heaven.”
K’Boo – “I don’t know anything about that.”
I said “She isn’t going to wake up again, Darling”
She turned to my Brother & said …
“Oh, you mean she’s dead!” “Did she hurt her bones, Mummy.”
So you see. My children have taught me that they do understand that a person or an animal can be with us one day and that they may not be the next.
Don’t play it down, don’t try and protect them from something they too need to understand and deal with. If you tell them the truth, their own level of understanding will allow them to deal with it in their own way. In translation – what they already know, will allow them to cope with one of life’s certainties – Death!
The knowledge of knowing my children understand that this is natural part of life and is something that can be talked about has helped me tremendously and will help me move on with positive thoughts. Talking about how bereavement affects you, is part of the healing process. Sudden changes without explanations can have a very negative effect on their lives – they need to grieve too and to process what has happened.
If you are struggling to cope with bereavement and you find talking to friends and family is not helping enough, then seek the help of a professional. Your doctor should be able to advise you of registered councillors.
For help with bereavement when you have young children – log onto the NCT website at www.NCT.org.uk or call 0300 33 00 771
The NCT is Britain’s largest parenting charity – funded by membership, donations and fundraising – They exist to make it possible for you to be the parent you want to be and to improve services in maternity care and for families with young children. The NCT are the voice for parents and campaign actively for all matters that effect parenting, on your behalf. The NCT are an excellent source for networking with other parents and there are 300 branches nationwide – log onto their website to find out about support in your area.
Sites recommended by the NCT (on their website) for bereavement issues are:
Child Bereavement Charity
Leaflets, books and videos for the bereaved.
t 01494 446 648