Tips for Explaining Death to Children
Life can be unpredictable sometimes. The day could start off completely as per usual and anything can happen.
We can never really prepare ourselves for certain calls. “There has been an accident,” or “I have some bad news to share with you.” When calls start out this way, we know the news that is coming next cannot be good.
For anyone, the concept of why people die a certain way and at a certain age is not a concept one can really understand. Who decides when it is one’s time to die? In order to derive comfort, some people feel that God makes these decisions. Others are more spiritual. Others are more rational.
Regardless of where we look for comfort, the whole concept of death is abstract. One that is difficult for anyone to process. But particularly for children, whose innocence does not enable them to process these emotions.
In recent months, tragedy has struck our family more than once. We have had no choice but to explain to our children that several of our loved ones are now with God.
Do they really understand what this means? Probably not.
Do they have in their minds an idea or vision of what that means? They probably do.
Regardless of how prepared we are to accept the death of a loved one, there are no easy ways to tell our children, followed up by having to answer questions that we ourselves do not know the answers to.
Tips for Explaining Death to Children:
The whole concept of death is one that many people shy away from. Children are especially vulnerable because they do not have the cognitive ability to understand the complexity of death. As parents, the best thing we can all do is be there to comfort, explain and support. Most importantly, everyday, let our children know how much we love them. As we are never quite sure when that will be the last time we are able to say this to them.
Image: “Withered Rose” by phanlop88 courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.
I remember one evening back in 2008. I was out for dinner with some mothers of the children in my daughter’s class. A few of us were talking about wanting more children, and how the process, for many of us, had not been easy thus far. One mother then piped in and said to me, “You have two, that is really enough.” Needless to say, I was speechless. I did not know if I wanted to cry or scream or call her out on her idiocy. I excused myself from the table and went to the washroom. I was soon followed by two other women who realized the impact these comments had on me. They concurred that those words are not ever to be said to a woman who is trying to conceive.
Over the course of my fertility journey, I learned that there are many things never to say to women/couples who, at whatever stage, are still trying to build their family. Especially to those who may have already been given a whole gamut of hormones, undergone many invasive physical procedures, possible losses, miscarriages and failed adoptions. Allow me to share a few of these tips with all of you.
Things NOT to say to Someone Trying to Conceive:
1) “It’ll happen when it happens. You just need to relax.” If we are at the point where we are trying to conceive in a doctor’s office, the chances are pretty high that it doesn’t just happen for us and that intervention is needed. Taking a trip to Jamaica or to Disneyworld does not change the fact that one might have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Endometriosis or a low sperm count.
2) “Is everything else alright in your relationship? Things like this happen for a reason.” Is there an implication here that I am not getting pregnant for reasons other than the fact that my body is failing me? Am I being punished with childlessness because my relationship with my husband is not like Carol and Mike Brady? Do some people not realize how ridiculous they sound?
3) “It will be ok. Parenthood is hard and not for everyone.” Actually, parenthood is a challenge that I have always looked forward to and welcome into my life. I can handle just about anything if given the opportunities.
4) “Sometime I wish I did not have kids. Just for a few days. I am so tired and I cannot stand the sleepless nights. You are so lucky.” Um….I was never quite sure how to respond to this one. I would welcome the sleepless nights, because along with that are the cuddles and the cooing and the baby’s first smiles. Some of my most memorable and tender moments with my children were in the middle of the night, when it was just us in the silence.
5) “Why don’t you just adopt?” Adoption was never off the table in my house. My husband and I were prepared to do whatever we needed to do to have children. However, adoption or using an egg donor or a surrogate do not just eliminate the want for a biological child. And if we had decided to go a different route, I would still need to grieve the loss of not being able to carry our own children.
6) “Do you want to throw me a baby shower?” Um… An appropriate response to this would be, “No. At times like these, I cannot throw you a baby shower. I might not even attend one for you thrown by someone else.” It is ok to say ‘no’ when you are hurting. We can only do what we can. We are not perfect, and we don’t need to put on a front to satisfy others.
7) “You need to just get over it and move on.” I have always been one to advocate that we feel what we feel when we feel it, and no one has the right to try to tell us otherwise. When we are ready to move on, we will. And in terms of getting over infertility….this is not likely. It is a deep wound. And even to this day, three children later, I still get teary and emotional when I think back to those times. Or when I see a client who is struggling the way I once did. It takes me right back, and it likely always will.
Feel free to share this list with those you feel could benefit from reading it!
Infertility is not a state of mind. In fact, studies have shown that the level of anxiety and depression that results from infertility is comparable to those struggling with terminal illness, cancer and AIDS. With infertility, we can remain in a state of limbo indefinitely. There will always be one more procedure to try. Or one more IVF cycle to try, thinking this could finally be the one. There are always more surrogates or different clinics which have different policies and procedures. It never ends. This is not the case with terminally ill patients or those with 4th stage cancer or AIDS. There is an end. That journey is finite.
So instead of adding to the stress and agony of infertility, the best thing one can say to a struggling loved-one is this, “I love you, and I am sorry you are going through this and that you are hurting so badly. If there is anything you need, anything at all, please know that I am here for you.”
Image: Things NOT to say to Someone Trying to Conceive courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
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