Children’s Corner

The Time of Death can be mystifying and troubling to a young person. Here at Beinhauer Family Services, LLP, we 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.

How Should I Explain Death?

Death is a subject most of us do not like to talk about, but eventually we all have to face it. At Beinhauer Family Services, LLP, we would like to help prepare your family before the need arises. We have designed a program to meet the needs of your family, with respect to the ages of your children, your faith issues and cultural beliefs.

When and 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 Beinhauer Family Services, LLP. 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.

Caring for a Surviving Child

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 important, 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?”
    • Maintain usual routines as much as possible.
    • Show affection, and assure the child that those who love him or her still do, and that they will take of him or her.
  2. The child will probably have many questions and may need to ask them again and again.
    • Encourage the child to ask questions and give honest, simple answers that can be understood. Repeated questions require patience and continued expression of caring.
    • Answers should be based on the needs that the child seems to be expressing, not necessarily the exact words used.
  3. The child will not know appropriate behavior for the situation.
    • Encourage the child to talk about their feelings, and share with them how you feel. You are a model for how one expresses feelings. It is helpful to cry. It is not helpful to be told how one should or should not feel.
    • Allow the child to express their caring for you. Loving is giving “and” taking.
  4. The child may fear that they also may die or that they somehow caused the death.
    • Reassure the child about the cause of the death, and explain that any thoughts they may have had about the person who died did not cause the death.
    • Reassure him or her that this does not mean someone else he or she loves is likely to die soon.
  5. The child may wish to be a part of the family rituals.
    • Explain any family rituals to the child or children, and include them in deciding how they will participate. Remember that they should be prepared beforehand, told what to expect, and have a supporting adult with them. Do not force them to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing.
  6. The child may show regressive behavior.
    • A common reaction to stress is reverting to an earlier stage of development. (For example, child may begin thumb sucking, or bed-wetting; or, may need to go back into diapers or have a bottle for a time). Support the child in this and keep in mind that these regressions are temporary.

Adults can help prepare a child deal with future losses of those who are significant, by helping the child handle smaller losses such as 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?

“Grandpa/Grandma will sleep in peace forever.” This explanation may result in child’s fear of going to bed or to sleep.

“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.

“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.

“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.

How to Help a Child Deal With Loss

Where do Children Fit In?

Resources:
Selected Funeral Homes
Hello Grief