No parent can ever properly prepare their children for the loss of a loved one. How do you explain that the person or pet they love so much is now gone? What exactly is the “right” thing to say?
Now here’s where my personal view point may differ from many of yours. In my home, with my family, we explain what can be seen, known, as well as being honest and telling them when we don’t know something. I don’t sugar coat things for my children, I myself as a child hated finding out something was so very different than what was explained to me so I don’t do this to my children. My husband and I explain what has happened (not in gruesome detail) and allow our children to ask as many questions as they need to understand what has happened.
In my home when a person or pet has passed away we grieve just like any other family would, we question why this had to happen and do our best to cope. We don’t however tell our children what to believe, how to believe or how to cope. We feel that as parents we are giving our children the tools to understand the world without forcing them to think a certain way.
One of the hardest things I had to explain to my children was the day that our co-founder Beth had passed away. They had known people that had died before, but never someone so close to our family. I explained to them what I knew of the situation, held them tight and cried before going to be with her family.
One thing that I had a very hard time with was that my daughters didn’t cry, not that day, the day of her celebration of life or any day after. For a few months I was upset that they didn’t seem to miss her the way I did, it wasn’t until later that I realized they were coping with her passing better than I was.
Know that there is no one right way to explain death to your children but if you’re honest with them and allow them to explore their feelings they just might surprise you at how much they understand.