I recently paid a home visit to a family to guide them through the preparation of a funeral for Grandma, a youngster came up to me and quietly stood beside me, a bit pensive, watching me writing and alternating his looks from me to his parents. He touched my arm and said ‘my Rabbit died too’.
I stopped writing and said ‘Oh I’m sorry that must have been very sad for you’
He nodded and played with his fingers. ‘My Grandma died you know’
I said, ‘Yes, I’m so sorry, I know you and Mummy and Daddy must miss her’
He said ‘Yes’ and he thought for a long moment, and then said ‘but I’m glad Grandma and bunny are together’
I said ‘yes, I’m sure grandma will love to have your bunny with her’
He took a cautious look toward Mum and Dad and said, ‘I know where she’s gone, I can show you, cause Mummy and Daddy said she’s gone where Bunny is’
Mummy and Daddy gasped. I determined that I needed to stop the arrangement and concentrate on this little man’s version of events.
The shorter version of this story is that when the rabbit died, Mummy and Daddy had whisked bunny away and put him in the Sulo. Unbeknown to them, this little man had seen them do it. When the sad new came that Grandma had died, they comforted him by saying that Grandma was now with bunny! Obviously thinking he wouldn’t be so sad if he knew Grandma and Bunny were in heaven together.
The simplest explanation is best for a child, explained in the kindest way. If a child is told that Grandma or Grandad ‘has gone to sleep’ or gone on a ‘new journey’, or ‘gone away’ in many children’s minds they might feel that they just need time, and they will be back.
For a child who is raised with a belief in God, it is comforting for them to know that their loved one is in heaven. If this is not the parent’s belief, they could help the child find a beautiful star and say that every time we see that star, we think of Grandma and how special she was.
If a child asks a question that is difficult to answer, its ok to say that you’re not sure, or you don’t know, but you will find out.
Coming to terms with death is difficult at any age. Raising a new generation to be prepared for honesty in life, this advice, this learning curve should come from their parents. Even if a parent cries during this explanation its ok, it shows the child that grief can be expressed, can be talked about.
The ladies at Lady Anne, are always available to be a listening ear, if you need to talk to an understanding person, before presenting these life circumstances to children.