Helping your children understand what happened to their grandparents can be a bit challenging as kids have a difficult time comprehending the idea of death or the fact that they will never see someone again. At the same time, kids are very tuned to their parent’s feelings, and they can easily tell when something is not right. It is very likely that your children understand that something has happened and will keep asking questions about it. It is important that you stay focused on addressing the issue.
Grandparents are very important people in every child’s life. They keep wishing that they can be around them again. No one wants to watch their children going through the pain of facing the loss of death. Everyone intends to help guide the child in understanding what has happened and it is important to know the best ways to accomplish that.
Grandparents can relate well with their grandchildren, and the children enjoy it without the kind of pressure that they get from parents. It is a special relationship that no child wants to lose. At times parents may feel resentment that their children are getting more attention from their grandparents than they recall receiving as kids but need to appreciate what the grandparents have to offer their children.
In today’s world children may have multiple sets of parents and grandparents and this kind of diversity can be enriching to everyone if the grandparents lead their grandchildren and accept their lifestyles. However, as families move on with life, some things are inevitable like illness and death. When death happens, as parents it is your role to let the children know what is going on with their grandparents. What parents typically fail to understand is that the truth is less scary than their children’s imaginations. They should not be left out during the grieving process. Let them express their feelings.
It is essential to prepare the kids for funerals and other related rituals in advance both mentally and emotionally. This will benefit them as talking about the lost grandparent at the funeral or paying tribute to them is very helpful. As adults you may wish to continue celebrating the memories of the deceased by maybe planting a tree. You can then tell the children to tend to it so that they can keep the memories close. Below are steps that you can follow in letting the children understand about their grandparent’s death:
- Avoid trying to use an analogy to make the children feel better. As stated earlier, the truth is less scary than the child’s imaginations. Thus avoid beating around the bush trying to hide the truth from them as it could create more questions for them. By telling them that the grandparent is sleeping, they may start wondering when they are going to wake up.
- Give them a role. Giving your children an active role can help the child to master strange emotional situation during the funeral service. You can let them sing a song or a poem but give the child a choice to decide if they want to participate.
- Clarify that they are not coming back. This will eliminate the day to day questions of when is grandpa coming back or I am going to ask grandma to take me on a trip once she is back. Let the children understand that they will not be seeing the deceased grandparent again. Tell them which changes to expect without the presence of the grandparents.
- Be intelligent and ready to answer their many questions. Don’t lose your temper or show them that you are avoiding their questions. Be bold enough to face them and explain everything in a way that they can understand. It is true adults can get tired of being asked questions by their children as they feel like the queries are irrelevant. The best thing to do is include them in the grieving process.
- Allow the child to attend the funeral events like the viewing of the body and the memorial services. Tell them what to expect and how to respond to visitors who give their condolences and remind them to be strong. Also, explain about the burial procedure. You can use phrases like ‘there will be a burial at the cemetery where grandpa’s body will be buried underground in a casket, and people might cry since it is a time to say goodbye.’ This will keep them prepared for any unusual things they are likely to witness in the ceremony.
- Finally, do not hide your tears from them and stop pretending that everything is alright when around them. They should be aware that death is a normal thing and that it will happen to everyone. Let them see that it is okay to mourn the loss of a loved one and that they should express their feelings freely. Talk about your feelings with them so that they can feel comfortable talking about their own feelings as well. You can use phrases like “I know that you are sad and that you miss grandpa, and I am too. We all loved him very much.”
After preparing them mentally, the other thing you need is to find wise and comforting words that help them feel that their grandparents are still with them. Make them feel that although they are invisible, their spirits are still very alive. Use simple terms to avoid making statements that might give conflicting messages to them. Also, allow them time for grief. The child may be going through frustration, sadness or anger after receiving the bad news. Depending on a child’s emotions, others may take more time to heal. Do not rush your children, instead offer your assistance in letting them express their feelings and support them no matter how long it takes. Let the child understand that it is okay to feel what they are feeling and if you feel that the child needs some extra help, you can consider seeking assistance from a therapist to help them cope with the difficult situation.
Grandparents are and will always remain in our hearts. Let’s make the memories valuable and treasure them forever. Help the children to remember the person. You can tell the kids to have drawings of the grandparents and write what they miss and loved most about them, and that they can hang the picture at their favorite spot somewhere they can look at when they miss them. Remembering the happy moments will help to minimize the grief and activate more positive feelings.