Critter Corner: Explaining Death and Dying to Grandchildren 

Dear Bebe,

My mother has a terminal illness and won’t be around much longer. I have yet to tell my children, because I don’t know the best way to explain it. Do you have any recommendations on how to tell children that their grandmother is dying?

Thanks for your help!

Khan Versayshun

Dear Khan,

I am so sorry to hear about your situation and send you lots of love and strength during this tough time for your family.

Bringing up the topic of death with children can be very difficult. As parents, we want to protect our children from the pain and sadness that is associated with this subject. But, at the same time, we want to be honest with our children. When there is a serious illness in the family, children can often sense something is not quite right.

Grief involves the entire family. Some families talk openly and show emotions. Other families think this is unwise and do not show emotion in front of children.

The following are things to keep in mind when broaching the topic of death and dying with your children:

Explain clearly.

When explaining what is happening, use simple clear language. Don’t overload them with information. Be guided by the questions they ask.

Avoid casual explanations. 

Do not equate death with going to sleep: “Grandad went to sleep” — children may think that if they sleep they may never wake up.

Be available and ready to listen.

Stay calm and try to keep your emotions in check.

Be especially loving and supportive.

Provide physical reassurance with lots of hugging, cuddling, and touching. Remember that children may grieve differently than adults — one minute very sad and the next out playing with friends. Children may also not show any grief at all, either because they don’t really understand the concept of death or because they simply accept death as something normal and natural.

Routine/reassurance

Children need normal settings and boundaries. Encourage them to be with friends. Allow them to return to school as soon as possible but do let their school/teachers know that a death has occurred or a close relative is dying.

Allow children to express themselves.

It is important to allow children to express their feelings. They may wish to do this by drawing, painting, or even role-playing.

The personality and temperament of your children will affect how they cope with the loss of a loved one.

Know your own beliefs by studying the evidence.

Some people sadly believe that death is the end of one’s existence, but it’s not and there is ample proof and scientific evidence that we are all eternal spiritual beings. My dad has a “Loss of a Loved One” page on the law firm’s website. The books he lists — and encourages everyone to read — provide VERY strong scientific evidence of the reality of soul reincarnation and our eternal spiritual life that exists between and during our physical lives. These books are not religious and are not teaching blind faith; rather, they provide conclusive and verifiable proof of eternal life. If you have ANY doubt whatsoever about the reality of eternal life, you owe it to yourself and your children to read some or all of these books before having the discussion about death with your children.

I hope your conversation with your children goes as well as it can, and I’m send lots of love and warm hugs during this tough time.

Bebe

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