Editor’s Note: Earthquakes, tsunamis, plane crashes, even the death of a goldfish… We may all need to explain to our children that the death was what?
The most difficult thing is to explain the death of relatives to children.
Let’s look at how a foreign father explained his wife’s death to a pair of daughters.
When my wife died of cancer complications, I felt that I had no right to grieve. The first thing to do was to explain to my children.
We had discussed this issue before our wife passed away. Now we think it is a little incredible, but we are very glad that we have done so.
The way to get it from various channels is to tell them honestly, express them with love… and so on. But I think there should be some more useful suggestions that are not so ordinary and help you through this process.
The following is what I am telling my children about what they did when their mother died.
Know Your Children
Know your children. Just like [actors need to know your audience], know your children.
No one can teach you how to explain it to your children, because each child is different. Therefore, the way you tell different children will be different.
1. Eldest daughter Emma, 13, mature and sensitive
My explanation of her is more complicated: a mixture of encouraging words, some frank truth and even a hint of humor.
I know this combination sounds strange, but it is based on understanding Emma.
2. The youngest daughter Lily, 9, naive and introverted,
I can’t communicate effectively with Lily. I know very little about the world she knows.
My conversation with Lily is completely different from that with Emma. I use the simplest language to communicate with her, give her the most direct information, and try to avoid using metaphors that she still does not understand.
Determine the message you want to convey in advance.
Is your intention to talk to the child what?
Before we start talking, we need to think about this problem clearly.
Take Emma for example. I have a lot of things to tell her about her mother’s death:
Mother never stopped fighting death.
Mom didn’t know this was the end point at that time. We never hid the truth from you.
Mother’s love will always be with you. Even if her body is far away from you, her love will always be with you.
As a family, we should love each other and become strong for the sake of our family.
I understand that the transmission of these messages will vary from person to person, but if these messages are made clear, the conversation will be more leisurely and the incessant nagging can be avoided.
Make no secret of one’s emotions
You can say anything, open your heart or even cry.
I have been thinking for a long time about whether to show nostalgia for their mother in front of my daughters. People, especially men, feel that they should show strong appearance.
I want my children to know how strong our family is, but I also want them to know how much I love their mother, how much I miss their mother, and how much I feel like them.
I don’t want them to feel that I have never been sad. I want them to feel that I don’t care. I want them to know that I love their mother and I love them.
I don’t want them to feel sad is a sign of cowardice. Let them know that it doesn’t matter to cry. When you lose the person you love, it is normal to do so.
Therefore, I expressed these feelings of missing and sadness, and did not hide when I shed tears.
It is also normal to be happy occasionally.
One day before going to bed, I asked Emma if she was all right. Although I am sure she must be bored and unhappy about this question. But the important thing is, I want to tell her how I feel.
There are many things about [nostalgia] that surprise me.
Sometimes when I feel depressed, I actually feel very good about it. It’s like feeling sad and proving that I am [correctly] missing it.
On the contrary, when I am in a good mood today, I feel guilty about it, as if I have completely forgotten what happened.
I discussed this problem with Emma and asked her if she would also have this strange feeling.
I think when I open my heart to her and talk about these things, I will also help her find the answer for herself.
At the same time, I will choose the right time to communicate. If they have just had a pleasant day, I will not mention it.
Focus on good memories
I found that the most saddening thing for me was to think of all our daughter’s life in the future, and my wife could not see it.
Their first date, graduation ceremony, wedding…
I felt extremely desperate when I thought that she would miss all this.
When I recall our good old days, I will still feel sad, but it is with sweet sadness.
In this way, I will not feel sorry for myself, but will remind me of her, mourn her, and make me feel that it is my greatest luck to have the opportunity to know her.
I told the children that this is the memory we should pay attention to. When you miss your mother, try to think less about her missing what and she will miss what, and think more about the beautiful things you want to share with your mother.
Talk more about the future of life
The wife is gone, but our life will continue, whether it is happy or trivial details of life.
Talk to the children:
Where are you going on vacation this year?
Do you want a new sofa at home?
Do you want to continue signing up for yoga classes?
What should we do on Mother’s Day?
How do we celebrate her birthday?
See what they want to do to divert the children from their sadness.
Ask for help if necessary
1. You also need help
Some things are too big and scary for us to bear. Learn to seek help in due course.
Sometimes you feel helpless and think, “I really can’t help them, I need help.”
Talk to your psychologist or close friend at this time, and you will get help.
2. Children also need help from others
Realizing that it is impossible for me to see the children all the time, my wife also asked me: [Contact the children’s teachers and caretakers more and ask them to take more care of the children.]
After my wife died, I met Emma and Lily’s teachers. I asked for their help. I explained the current situation to them and asked them to pay more attention to the children. After that, I also got the current situation of the children from the teachers.
Admit that sadness will not disappear soon.
You can’t use conversation to drive away all sadness, but you can at least control the direction of conversation and don’t make things worse.
I have been trying my best to keep in touch with the children, hoping to get them out of their sadness as soon as possible.
But one day, I realized that no matter how amazing the information I gave the child, no matter how much I met the child’s needs, the final cure would still take a lot of time. Before this time comes, all I can do is make the children realize that they are not alone and their families will not fall apart.
Last but not least, children aren’t the only ones who are sad, so it’s really hard for me and most people to deal with my emotions and talk about death with children at the same time. But this sincere emotion will also be the most effective help for you to communicate successfully with children.
And you, in fact, will do better than anyone else, because love is more than everything.