When terminal illness and death visits a family, it visits EVERY member of the family. Even little ones.
It is so difficult to know what to say. How to explain. Maybe even how to justify.
You are going through your own “stuff”, and often children are unintentionally pushed aside. Feel forgotten.
But children grieve. We know that. For sure. And like all of us, they need support in their grieving.
I believe strongly in the power of teaching and learning through literature. (Previously in my career, I taught children’s literature to future teachers.)
There are many books about death written for children of all ages that, when read together with a trusted and beloved adult, are powerful tools for helping a child articulate, understand and come to terms with his/her feelings.
It’s possible that you, the reader, are too upset to do this with your child. And that is OK. When that happens, consider asking someone your child trusts and loves to fill this need. It’s nice if it’s you, but it doesn’t have to be.
And by the way, it’s OK for your child(ren) to see you cry and for you to cry together. Don’t repress that need. It will bring you closer together – not farther apart. Your tears give permission for your child’s tears. And tears are part of the healing process.
I don’t recommend sending a children off alone to read a death and dying book in solitude.
I do recommend sitting beside children with your arms around them (or placing a little one on your lap) reading and talking about the story and pictures together — – as many times and as often as the child wishes. This reading time needs to be safe and without distraction.
Some children will not respond to this, but many will.
Some will not respond initially, but will later.
You know your child better than anyone. A book is a tool – a method – a means of broaching this challenging subject in an age-appropriate way.
Eventually, I will offer books with audio recordings for purchase. For now, I will be posting reviews of available books for your consideration.