Discussing Death with Children: AfterTalk Inspirational: 5.17.18

You can’t watch cable TV and not know about Mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos. Since it is 91% fatal, the people at Mesothelioma Center know their way around grieving. Their guide “Coping with the Loss of a Loved One to Mesothelioma,” is an excellent tool for anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one, regardless of the cause. Here is  a link to the website page including a button to download a PDF file of the guide:

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One to Mesothelioma

Here is an excerpt from the guide about talking to children about death. I think it applies to everyone.

Discussing Death with Children

Cancer can be a daunting topic to explain to a child. After a father, mother or grandparent dies from mesothelioma, finding the right words to say to children affected may seem impossible.

It is important to keep explanations and answers as short as possible, especially when speaking to young children.

However, be straightforward and honest. Parenting experts agree that dancing around the truth or sugarcoating a significant life event such as a Discussing Death with Children AfterTalkdeath can often backfire and confuse the child. Telling them “Grandpa went to sleep” may make them afraid to go to sleep at night. Instead, say something like “grandpa died because he was very old and sick.”

Use analogies to your advantage. Comparing a person’s life to a tree’s leaves — which bloom in the spring, then change colors and die in the fall — or a toy’s batteries that run out can give children something to relate to and understand better.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization highlights some tips for helping children cope with the death of a love one:

  • Avoid Complex Terms:Using big words or medical terms to describe an illness or circumstances surrounding a death can overwhelm and confuse a child. Use easily relatable language. Let the child explain back how he or she comprehends what happened, then clarify any misunderstanding or confusion.
  • Allow Time to Process:Children process things differently than adults, and every child will grieve differently. It may take a while for them to fully understand what happened. Encourage them to ask questions and give simple, honest answers.
  • Share Your Own Feelings:Telling children how you feel about losing a loved one may make them more comfortable to open up about their own feelings. Consoling them and expressing feelings of love is essential at a time of loss.
  • Commemorate the Life of a Loved One:Sharing memories helps the grieving process. Offer a child the chance to remember and honor a deceased loved one through creative writing, drawing a picture or planting the loved one’s favorite flowers.


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