The Loss of Loved Ones

Mamadoo and I in the Philippines 
With the recent passing of my Grandma, also known as “Mamadoo” on Thanksgiving morning and the passing of my other Grandma just last year it’s been an emotional time for my family and extended family. Although my Grandma’s passing was unexpected, she didn’t suffer. Mamadoo has been in and out of the hospital and was ICU for over a week, unresponsive. She later came around and was responsive but had many other complications and was not able to breathe on her own. The boys and I, along with the many other family and relatives sat in the hospital daily waiting supporting eachother and trying to make Mamadoo smile and lift her spirits. After 2 1/2 weeks of discomfort, pain and suffering, she passed away on Thanksgiving morning. 

How do you explain to toddlers and kids about losing a family member? It’s never an easy thing to understand about life for adults, let alone children. For me, as a child I experienced quite a few family members deaths and was comfortable and understanding of death and losing loved ones as early as I can remember. As a teen and young adult I also experienced close friends passing which was hard as well. For my kids, my Grandma’s passing last year was their first experience. My boys were very close to their Great Grandma, which whom they called “Great Mama”. How much do kids really understand what is going on? I’ve learned to talk to it with the boys as often as I can. I have seen that their heads are thinking. I’ve even seen my boys cry about it. 

Mamadoo and Papadoo with most of the Great Grandkids
Kameron with Mamadoo last year on his 3rd birthday

Hubby and I on our wedding day with Papadoo and Mamadoo

Konnor and my nephews with Mamadoo as she celebrates her 85th birthday days before she was admitted to ICU

A Baby Konnor with Mamadoo, Papadoo and Baby Kaedyn

Mamadoo, Papadoo and most of the Grandkids

According to an article by Dr. Bruce Perry on Scholastic I have read some tips for talking about loss with children.

  • Don’t be afraid to talk about death or loss. Children do not benefit from “not thinking about it” or “putting it out of their minds.” Share important facts about the event and try to get a sense of what the children think about it and about death in general.
  • Share some of your own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes children act as if they have not heard anything you have said, but they have. Remember that in the midst of distressing experiences, children are not very capable of processing complex or abstract information. Be prepared to repeat the same information again and again.
  • Invite children to talk about feelings they have regarding the event or death. Then you can let them take the lead as to when, how long, and how much this is discussed. If you sense that one or more of the children are becoming over-focused on these issues, redirect the discussion in a way that will not disrupt the class or impact the affected child.
  • During these initial conversations, try to understand what the children think about divorce or death. Do they have a view of afterlife? Do they place blame for divorce on one party or another? The more you understand about how the children think about death or divorce, the easier it will be for you to talk about it in a meaningful way.
  • If children sense that you are upset by the loss, they may not bring the topic up even when they want to. Be a good role model, showing children how to express emotions in a healthy and nondisruptive fashion. It can be very helpful for children to know that you have been affected by the event and that you are willing to talk about how you feel.
  • Help the children understand how devastated their classmate feels. Explain that this child may be more tired than usual, more irritable, and less interested in playing. Advise them that their classmate may want to talk about the loss and encourage them to listen
  • Tell the children that this is a completely out-of-bounds topic for teasing. You can teach the children to respect the grieving process and avoid the emotional tender spots for a child. Also help children understand that this will be a long process and a major challenge for their classmate.

I’m hoping my boys understand more as they grow up. Hopefully we don’t have to experience too much anytime soon. For now, they know that their Great Grandma’s are in heaven together. We love you Mama and Mamadoo. Take care of eachother up there and remember we’re always missing you both. Rest in Peace.

Have you had to explain to your kids the loss of a loved one? How did you go about it?

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