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Thoughts on Children and Grief

When my grandmother died, my mother commented to me that at every funeral in our family, either someone was pregnant or had just had a baby. It made me stop and think. Not only was that true but we often had young children present. As uncomfortable as we may be with death, it is a part of our world and a part of the world our children live in. When someone close to us dies, we feel the loss, and so do our children. Even if our children did not know the person who died they pick up on our emotions. For many of us our first inclination is to keep our children as far away from any experience of death as possible. We want to "protect" them from the pain that comes from loss and grief. No matter how hard we try, we cannot keep them from those emotions. Instead we need to give them the tools to grieve well. Grieving well is a challenge. We need to remember the person as they were, as a whole person, good and bad, lovable and difficult. The stories that come out at funerals often can help us remember the person. Funerals can also help us begin the process of saying goodbye and letting go of our hopes and dreams for that relationship.  Our children too, need to have the opportunity to tell their stories and say goodbye. Take the time now to think through how you would help your children grieve. Would you have them attend the funeral? What if it is too far away? Is there some other way for your family to honor the person, to tell their stories and say goodbye?  
Linnae Peterson, M.Div.
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