Talking with your kids about death and helping them through the grieving process can be difficult. There is never going to be a good time to talk to your kids about what happens after people die, or how to handle their feelings about it. My father was first diagnosed with cancer three years ago and passed away this year. This journey has taught me a lot about how to talk to my children about not only death but terminal illnesses and cancer as well. I wanted to share some of the tips I have that worked well for my children in hopes that it makes talking to your kids about grief easier for you.
Be honest with them
Sometimes we don’t always get a heads up whenever someone is going to pass. In our situation, we knew my father was going to die when he was diagnosed. He had stage four cancer, so we had time to talk with them about it before he passed. My children are seven and nine and one thing that causes anxiety for them are the things we don’t tell them. Even something as small as what we’re doing today could cause them anxiety. We were honest with them and told them what was going on. We didn’t try to hide it from them or pretend like it wasn’t happening.
Use books to help start the discussion
There are so many wonderful books out there about cancer and illness that can help make talking with your children so much easier! When we were first teaching my kids about my father’s illness, the first book I checked out was Mom Has Cancer. I had to start by explaining to them that I was not the one with cancer, but it was a great way to start the conversation!
In the book, it mentioned that their mother was going to recover and be “all better” but I had to explain to my kids that this was not what would happen to our family. I wanted them to know that God can do all things, but that the expectation when he was diagnosed at age 74 with stage four cancer was that he probably would not make it.
In addition to this book, here are a few others we read with our kids:
My children were allowed to read these books whenever they wanted to, and we even built the memory box from The Memory Box book.
Talk with Someone Who Has Dealt With the Grief
The books that we read were recommended to us by a friend who had experienced the same situation. It’s important to find someone whether online or in person who has experienced the same situation that you are going through, but are years removed from it. I found it more valuable to talk to kids who are now grown up but went through it than adults or children who were just now starting their journey. Our children talk to a counselor every week, and having that outside person that they can talk to is great for the days when I’m too emotional to talk about it.
Use All the Resources Available to You
Toward the end of my father’s life, we put him in Hospice care. They gave us a bunch of amazing resources that we found extremely helpful! Don’t be afraid to ask them what would work for your family and use all the resources that they have available!
Talking about grief with your children can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be! These tips will help make the process much easier on both you and your kids.
How do you communicate with your children about hard topics?