Q&A - Talking to children about death and dying

  • Posts: 5
    Edited by: MarkWilkin - 12/03/2015 16:20

    Question from Devonbird04: My mil died of brain cancer in 2011. Our son was 17 months when this happened, we have photos of her around the house and visit her grave regularly. He remembers that nana was in a wheelchair ( every wheelchair he sees he looks in to check for nana) 

    We never told him she had died as he was too young, he has now started to ask to see her and go to her house. My husband explained that she is an angel but he is asking the why she is and how. We are finding this difficult to answer, what would you suggest? 

    Thank you for your time 

    Hi there, thank you for your question. Your son at the stage in his grief where he needs to understand where his nana is. If his last memory is of nana being in a wheelchair that is probably why he associates everyone who is in a wheelchair could be his nana. Go with your beliefs in what happens when you die. He is probably asking how nana has become an angel. Talk to him about nana was very poorly and the doctors did everything they could to help nana to live. Because she was so poorly they weren’t able to and now nana is not in pain and is safe. It is important to use the word died as this will help him to understand that he won’t be able to see nana again. 


    If you believe that when you die you go to a special place, it might be useful to let him draw out that special place. By asking him questions like, what colour is it, what do you do there, is it light or dark can help him to put something down on paper. Let him know that how he sees this special place is what is important. This helps children to have something concrete to visualise of where their special person is. It can also be helpful for a child of this age to understand that when you die you don’t need your body any more. As you have spoken to him about nana being an angel, for your son, you can describe that it is what is inside you that becomes the angel. The Lonely Tree by Nicholas Halliday is a nice book to explain what happens when you die. 

    All the best. 

    Ann Scanlon – Marie Curie Cancer Care

  • Community Manager - Posts: 120
    12/03/2015  16:43

    That's all the questions that we have time for today so I'd like to thank Ann for her help and everyone who asked questions for sharing them with us.


    We'll be doing another Q&A session on "Coping with Bereavement" here on community in two weeks time (on the 24th, 25th and 26th of March). You can follow our Facebook page or Twitter account for a reminder of when it'll be on.


    If you've got any other questions or anything to share in the meantime please do start a new thread and our community will be happy to chat to you.


    Thanks

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