My dad died in the winter of 1999 after a long battle with respiratory illness. Among the flurry (and blur) of decisions we were making for his memorial service, I was struggling with whether or not to allow my young children to attend his funeral. At the time, my daughter was eight years old and my son was five. Neither of them had ever attended a funeral before. Questions raced through my mind…
- Were they too young to experience a funeral?
- Would it be okay for them to see me crying one minute and laughing the next?
- Would I be able to answer their questions about why grandpa died?
Ultimately, my husband and I agreed that they should both attend my father’s visitation, funeral and burial services – and I’m glad we did. While we certainly didn’t have all of the answers to their questions that day, I know the decision we made to include our children in the experience helped each of us better cope on that very difficult day and the difficult days and months that followed.
Not long after the funeral, I received a book from a very close family member whose parents had both died shortly before my dad. She also had young children. The book, Butterflies: Talking with Children About Death...and Life Eternal by Rev. P. William VanderWyden, became a valuable resource for me to help my children cope with their grief and answer their questions. It was such a thoughtful gift and one I still keep in my nightstand as a source of comfort 17 years after the death of my father.
November is Children's Grief Awareness Month – November 17th is Grief Awareness Day. It is a perfect opportunity for you to share some grief resources to support children and families in the communities you serve. Whether you have a grief support library on-site or offer online aftercare services, here are a few books for your consideration:
When Your Grandparent Dies: A Child’s Guide to Good Grief by Victoria Ryan
In this book, an elf character helps children navigate a grandparent’s death in terms they can understand. The book explains what death means and provides guidance and discussion questions about how they can remember their loved one.
Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing with Loss by Michaelene Mundy
Another book in the “elf-help” series, this resource provides a practical, realistic look at what loss means from a child’s perspective. Its affirming message encourages children to share their emotions after the death of a loved one.
When My Baba Died by Marjorie Kunch
Designed for children ages four to eight, this book follows an Orthodox Christian family whose loved one dies. It answers some of the most common questions children have about death and funerals, helping to alleviate some of their fears.
After the Funeral by Jane Loretta Winsch
The grief of losing a loved one can be confusing and frightening for a child. This book features a simple format that addresses these emotions and can help caregivers provide support to a child and as their family moves toward acceptance and hope.
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss by Chuck DeKlyen
This resource is intended to be a tool for the whole family after the loss of a loved one. Through the narrative device of preparing “tear soup,” the author shares tips for various scenarios (including children coping with grief) that help put the experience in context for anyone reading the book.
I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas
Written with a simple storyline and straightforward presentation, this book explains to children that death is a natural part of life. It includes a “how to use this book” section to help caregivers approach the topics of dying and grief with children in understandable ways.
The Grieving Teen: A Guide for Teenagers and Their Friends by Helen Fitzgerald
This compassionate guide addresses the unique needs of adolescents struggling with loss, and gives teens the resources they need to cope with their pain and grief.
Where Are You: A Child’s Book About Loss by Laura Olivieri
This is another resource that explains death in simple terms through both text and illustrations. The story depicted in the book is designed to help children recognize the validity of their emotions and encourage a dialogue about how grief is affecting them.
What children’s grief support resources have you found valuable for families in your community? Please feel free to share your recommendations in the comments below.