Almost three months ago we said goodbye to my beloved Grandma. She passed away comfortable and surrounded by family in the Hospice that I work for after being diagnosed with terminal Leukaemia eight weeks previously. Having that time with her meant that we were able to say everything we wanted to and have all the right conversations but one of my biggest worries and causes of upset was how I would tell Alice her Granny wasn’t with us anymore. Recently one of my best friends lost a Grandparent and came to me for advice about how I explained it to Alice as she was faced with the same task of telling her children. I was able to recommend a book I read so I thought I would share it with you in case you are ever faced with the same situation.
Explaining death to children
Working for a Hospice I have a very small idea of some of the do’s and dont’s of explaining death to Children but I still had no idea how I would tell Alice. I knew that it was best to be honest in an age appropriate way and I really wanted to get it right. I decided that finding a book would be the best way forward to explain. We aren’t religious and I wanted a story that was relevant to our situation so I did some research and came across a few options. Some books talked about the different ways in which people might have died and I knew I didn’t need to go into that level of depth quite yet. I then found Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley. The story fitted our situation so well, Badger was old and knew it was his time. His friends are so sad to hear about him dying but they begin to remember Badger and all the things he had taught them which helps them to feel less sad.
Badger’s Parting Gifts
The book is so beautifully illustrated and sensitively written but doesn’t hide from technical language like ‘died’. It enabled me to be appropriately honest with Alice at an emotional time where I would have struggled to find the right words and in the following weeks when she has asked questions like where her Granny is it has been so useful having the story as a reference point. I refer to Granny as being like Badger, she was old but loved us all and although we are sad and miss her we can all remember her and the things she did with us. This usually gets her talking about how she feels, either that she is sad or that she misses her or that it’s nice to think about her and then in typical 3 year old fashion she often moves on to the next topic. I’m hopeful that by dealing with it honestly and sensitively I have made her first experience of a close family member’s death somewhat understandable for her and by communicating with her in the right way about it I hope that will help to set her up to be able to cope with and not shy away from difficult topics and emotions. It is of course an ongoing process but for me having a story to hand that helps explain things in language she understands is a huge help.
If you’d like a copy of the book you can get one on Amazon here and if you are looking for more information on how to talk to your Children about death Barnardo’s have some expert advice available online here. It is such a difficult topic to discuss but I hope that someone somewhere might find this helpful when they need it and if you have been through a similar situation and have advice you’d like to share, I’d be so grateful.