Talking with Children About Grief

Linda Goldman discusses how to talk to children about grief with Dr. Gloria Horsley at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference. Goldman authored Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Death for parents, and a children’s book called Children Also Grieve. As an expert in grieving and children, Goldman says the books are important for parents and professionals alike. How do you answer children’s questions? The reality is that a child’s question is a mirror to their soul and inner self. For example, one child asked, “What do you think heaven is?”

By asking the same question back, together they drew a picture of heaven featuring Elvis with her mom and amazing food spreads. Goldman also does “memory work” to help children remember, such as creating a box to remember their parent. Ask a child, “What are the things you worry about the most?” then work with them to solve these problems together. For instance, one little girl said she worried because her dad didn’t wear his seatbelt, so together Goldman and the young patient wrote a letter asking Dad to wear a seatbelt for safety.

Grief at All Ages

“If a child asks a question, it’s because they’ve formulated some kind of idea already in their mind,” notes Dr. Horsley. Children can feel neglected if they ask a question and don’t get an answer. However, it’s difficult for many adults to find the right words to talk to kids. However, like Mr. Rogers says, “What is mentionable is manageable.” Finding age-appropriate answers is key.

Kids often worry if a person suffered in death. You may not know, but you can find out what a child imagines happens. Oftentimes, it can be much worse than reality. This was especially true of children who lost parents in war or in 9/11.

Linda Goldman

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Linda Goldman is a Fellow in Thanantology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement (FT) with an MS degree in counseling and Master's Equivalency in early childhood education. Linda is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and a National Certified Counselor (NBCC). Linda Goldman is the author of Life and Loss: A Guide to Help Grieving Children (First edition, 1994/ Second edition 2000) Taylor and Francis Publishers. Her second book is Breaking the Silence: a Guide to Help Children with Complicated Grief (First edition, 1996/Second edition 2002). Her other books include Bart Speaks Out: An Interactive Storybook for Young Children On Suicide (1998) WPS publishers, a Phi Delta Kappan International fastback, Helping the Grieving Child in the School (2000), and a Chinese Edition of Breaking the Silence: A Guide to Help Children With Complicated Grief (2001), the Japanese Edition of Life and Loss: A Guide to Help Grieving Children (in press 2005), and "Raising Our Children to Be Resilient: A Guide for Helping Children Cope with Trauma in Today’s World (2005)" and a children’s book Children Also Grieve (2005), Chinese translation of Children Also Grieve (2007) and Coming Out, Coming In: Nurturing the Well Being and Inclusion of Gay Youth in Mainstream Society (2008). She has also authored contributing chapters in resources including Loss of the Assumptive World (2002), Annual Death, Dying, and Bereavement (2001-2007), Family Counseling and Therapy Techniques (1998), and The School Services Sourcebook: A Guide for School-Based Professionals (2006). She is currently writing two books to be included in a series, Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Death (in-press 2009) and Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Sex (in-press 2009). Listen to Linda on Open to Hope Radio

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