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.