When one loses a spouse (and in turn a child loses his/her parent) the depth of the grief may be so profound and the pain so deep, communication between the survivors may falter. Consequently, parent and child may each have a hard time really hearing what the other needs.
I would imagine, if a child had the wisdom to recognize his/her actions for what they truly are and the words to express his/her emotions, the following might be what would be said.
I had a special relationship with Daddy/Mommy, and I need to grieve for all the things I will miss doing with him/her. They are different than the things you will miss about him/her. Please don’t tell me how I should feel because it may not be right and then you will make me think I’m doing something wrong.
Please tell me the truth about what happened in terms that I can understand. If you tell me Daddy/Mommy went on a trip, then I will expect him/her to come home. I am more afraid of not knowing what really happened than to face sad and difficult truths.
Please allow me to attend my father’s/mother’s funeral. I might be scared and not understand everything, but I need to physically understand where he/she is going to be.
Please keep talking to me about life and death. Be patient when I ask a lot of questions and when I ask the same questions over and over again. I am just trying to understand all these new concepts.
Please explain to me that Daddy/Mommy didn’t die because I was a bad boy/girl and made him/her angry sometimes. Let me know that his/her death wasn’t a punishment for me. Tell me the real cause of the death, so I don’t have to feel guilty.
Be patient with me when I say, much too often, I have a stomachache or a headache. It is just that my heart hurts so much, it makes the rest of my body feel sick too. I am not faking to get out of going to school or having to do chores. I am using all my energy learning to adjust to a new life without a father/mother that sometimes my body becomes weak. I don’t want to feel this way, and I am trying very hard to be strong.
Please know that I am looking to you for guidance. I am going to follow your lead. If you pretend everything is fine, I will too. If you stay in bed all day because you can’t face the world, I will too. If you start acting wild by drinking and staying out late, I will too. If you become mean and mad at the world, I will too.
Please be a good role model. Show me the way to recovery through hard work, facing one’s fears and problems, and finding new ways to live, love and be happy. That is the greatest gift you can give me.
This is an excerpt from Let's Get A Grip on Grief by Ellen Gerst, a book that helps explain death to children (for ages 5-8). A companion book, Let's Get a Grasp on Grief, is also available (for ages 9-12) that explores the concept of grief in more depth. Both books include helpful tips for parents and/or caregivers. Click here to order. Visit Ellen's website for more detailed information on her other books and services, which include: A Practical Guide to Widow/erhood; 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief; and Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story.