As a little boy, I lived next door to my Pop and Granny. It was awesome! Pop loved spending time with me, and I loved spending time with him. He would take me to the big town of Dexter and get me a treat of some kind … an ice cream, a Coke, or a candy bar. On one of those trips Pop finally gave in and bought me that bag of army soldiers I had been bugging him for.
Life as I knew it, though, was about to change forever. We were just a couple of minutes from getting back to the house from one of our trips when a drunk driver hit us head on. I was just six years old when Pop died. As I stood next to the casket with my mom, she told me that Pop was at peace. Granny was crying. My aunt and uncle were upset. It was a difficult day for my family.
Losing someone close to you, no matter what age you are, is one of the most difficult experiences you’ll deal with in life. Most children in my generation were sheltered from the pain of death. Still today, children are often times referred to as the “forgotten mourners” in a family that is experiencing the loss of a loved one.
Equipped with the knowledge that children have distinct grieving needs, hospice can assist families with helping them through a healthy bereavement. We can help you talk to children about loss and provide community resources such as support groups, forums, grief camps, mental health services, and books. Hospice employs certified grief counselors who are skilled at helping children share their feelings and learn positive coping skills so they can come to terms with their loss.
Trying to shield children from death can make the grief process worse. Death, while difficult for all of us, is a natural part of life. Benjamin Mee, a British writer who bought a failing zoo while becoming a widower and single father, talked about how he and his children learned to cope with their loss. In an interview with The Telegraph, Mee said, “That is how I feel about the zoo. Rebuilding it was cathartic. But the zoo itself is also a tremendous place for healing. It connects you to the circle of life. We have births, we have deaths and they remind you that we are just another family unit that has suffered a loss – like the tigers who lost their grand-father or the tapirs who had a stillborn calf.”
I like what Mee had to say. Maybe growing up on a farm helped me deal with losing my Pop. As my wife and I recently watched the 2011 movie based on Mee’s story, We Bought a Zoo, I was reminded that grief is just as real for kids as it is for adults. No matter how young or old you may be, dealing with death is painful. It’s as important for children to feel the same full constellation of painful emotions and experience grief in all its stages, as for an adult.
At times of loss, parents don’t have to handle all of their children’s needs on their own. Find someone to walk with you on the journey.
If you have a loved one in need of Hospice services and you want to learn more about our bereavement support program, visit us on the web, connect with us on Facebook, or call to speak with one of our representatives at 855-328-1700.