Chapter 5: Supporting children and teens

Preparing and supporting children and teens

I've been there
Honor speaks about being open and honest with her children.(3:22)Video transcript
What the grief expert says
Tara speaks about how kids might ask about what happens after death.(3:22)Video transcript
Tara talks about the importance of open communication as part of preparing for the death of a loved one and for grieving when supporting childence and teenagers.(3:22)Video transcript

It took every ounce of energy I had to try to stay open and honest with my daughter about her mom’s condition and choice. I could barely contain my own grief, let alone try to stay strong for her.

I was at a loss as to how to talk to our eight-year-old son. I wanted to protect him. I quickly learned it was better for us to be in our sadness together. I can see that we will be helping each other through this for the rest of our lives.

It helped us to remember each of our kids are different. After the first conversation, we talked to them separately as they weren’t all ready for the same information at the same time.

It is hard to witness the grief of our children. Our instinct is to want to protect them from the hard things in life, but in reality, the best way to support them is through open communication. You might be feeling hesitant to talk to them about an assisted death, in particular. Children seem to do better when they are provided with clear and honest information that is tailored to their maturity and personality.

Supporting grieving children can be hard when you are in the midst of your own grief. You may be afraid that it’s too hard for them to see your feelings. But children can be confused if they don’t see an emotional response in the adults around them. Children might also hesitate to share feelings and ask questions because they fear upsetting you.

Children have individual ways of experiencing and expressing their grief; there is no single right way. Different from adults, children might balance great joy and great sorrow in short periods of time. Just because a child is running and playing, it doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing deep grief. Their grief will be influenced by their age and maturity; personality; relationship with the person who is dying or has died; and their previous experiences with death.