Inviting your children to share your grief is the best lesson about death that you can offer them. Allowing them to experience the grieving process while explaining death as part of life, will help them develop a mature and healthy understanding of death.
Being a funeral director I have witnessed many funerals and have been there for many grieving people who have lost their parents, spouse, children, and friends. Hopefully I have learned a little bit at each stop along the way.
My best example is how we talked to my own daughter Lilly, named after a beautiful flower she is. Lilly (pictured above) is older now, but unfortunately when she was younger, Lilly experienced the loss of more than one family member at a very young age. Rather than keeping her in the dark, we decided that we should be open with her and allow her to understand both loss and the love we keep for those who passed away.
We taught her that the dead are never truly gone and that we should remember them through the eyes of love. We keep their memory alive by including them in our nightly prayers and bringing them up into our discussions. In this way we preserve their precious memory in our lives and are thankful for them.
They say a person is only truly deceased when everyone ceases to remember them. I very much believe this is to be true.
It is natural to want to protect your children from pain, but keeping them in the dark can cause anxiety and confusion. It may also appear that you are distancing yourself from them in their own time of grief.
Try as we might, we cannot shield our children from all of life’s trials. Instead we should use these opportunities to grow and nurture our relationship with our children. We might even learn something about ourselves along the way.
As a parent consoling a child, you can explain that death isn't something taboo or to be feared. It is a part of life and the people who die are never actually gone, unless we stop continuing to make them a part of our lives.
I see too many people try to avoid the pain. In doing so, they cheat themselves of an opportunity to heal. As painful as funerals are for us, they can also be wonderful catalyst for bringing us together. At the funeral we begin the process of discharging all the fear and anxiety, all the negative beliefs and emotions that death has stirred in us. We face the reality of death, and together move on.
Treat the passing of your loved ones with the contemplation and ceremony they deserve. Your children will remember the death of loved ones for the rest or their lives. You can make those memories beautiful.