A recent post by Judith Acosta, LISW, CHT on the Huffington Post provides valuable insights on how to talk to children about death. Quoting from her article:
There are few words that can silence a group of people faster than the word “death.” It is the last great American Taboo. This is an interesting American quirk. We will sit at a table full of people from all walks of life, of all ages and talk about our sex lives, our addiction histories, our dysfunctional families, even disclose our Botox regimens. We talk about things that take us way past the “need-to-know” line.
Yet, we hide our ill and dying in hospitals and hospices. What’s particularly interesting about it to me is that our societal norms have been switched. We once tended to our dying plainly and openly in our parlors and bedrooms — but sex, family and finances were all highly private matters. And what went on between us and our doctors stayed there. Now, we will talk about absolutely anything except the inevitability of loss and the one thing that affects absolutely everyone.
In a world where the pursuit of happiness is the Absolute Value, suffering, loss and grief are anomalies. In some circles, they are even considered a defect of character. I once heard a patient tell her child who had just lost his grandfather, “We just accept it and move on, dear. Tomorrow will be better.” I could see she meant well, but it was clear her child was neither accepting it nor moving on. He was suffering and confused. Our children have not been untouched by this polar reversal in values.
She goes on to talk about how to talk to children when a loved one is dying, as detailed in her book, Verbal First Aid. Click here to read the entire post.