Monday, January 2, 2012

Sojourner Marable Grimmett: Talking To Children about Death: A Letter To Pops


By Sojourner Marable Grimmett, Fox 5 Atlanta Mom Blogger

Talking about the loss of a loved one is extremely difficult. Even more challenging is having a conversation about death with small children. We’ve lost several family members this last year, and our oldest son, Roland, has been very perceptive and in-tuned with my grieving process.

My father, Dr. Manning Marable, was one of the most influential role models in my life. He passed away in April and my emotions have continued to be a roller coaster ride of cherishing and reflecting on great memories to being uncontrollably sad. There are many moments when I sit quietly on the sofa and reflect on how much he blessed my life. My heart aches from his passing, but my family and I have found strength in remembering the times we shared and how he chose to express himself and live on earth.

As parents, we often want to shield our emotions away from our children, but during the grieving process it’s difficult to hide your feelings. Children are so inquisitive and aware of their environments. Over the last several months, Roland has raised many questions about dying. I’ve found that being truthful, open about the topic to our oldest son, answering any questions that he might have, and keeping the lines of communication open, has been the best way to talk about the loss of a loved one.

In the most painful moments of your life, smaller children are curious and have so many questions. It’s been a learning experience to discuss death with our children, especially our oldest, because he does not have sensitivity filters and is very curious about the topic.

One evening, not too long ago, Roland was sitting in his bed writing a letter. “I’m writing a letter to Pops,” Roland said. I was startled for a moment, but was touched by his comment and believed that this was part of his own grieving process.

What’s been working for us is to talk about Pops. We share memories and stories in order for our boys to know him and learn of his accomplishments. It’s my hope that by continuing to do so my Father’s legacy will continue to live on through his grandsons.

Through my grief, I’ve found comfort in talking about loved ones who have passed. How have you dealt with talking to your own children about death? How have you found strength to heal in your own grieving process?


imageSojourner Marable Grimmett is an Atlanta-based author who is recognized for writing about the joys and challenges of being a “stay-at-work” mom and connects with moms, both new and experienced, who have the responsibility of raising a family and maintaining a full-time job. Sojourner has been featured in Fox News and CNN (among many others). You can visit her blog, follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook. Also join her new campaign to support establishing lactation rooms in public places.


Anonymous said...

Kids are so wise.

At age 6 my daughter has dealt with the loss of her father, her great grandmother and her grandfather. I found that involving her in the funeral and then subsequent grave site visits provided practical answers to her questions. I know that some don't find it appropriate for children to be involved in funerals at all, but children are not absent from the grieving community and including them (at the discretion of their parents) does allow for them to give and get support. They see that there is not only deep sadness, but often laughter, shared memories and stories of gratitude, food and drink, and (if the family is religious) spiritual strongholds that accompany the process of coming to terms with loss. I believe this helps them.

Also, I have age appropriate books. "The Fall of Freddy the Leaf" describes the life cycle of a leaf which "dies" during the fall. Kids can relate to the seasonal metaphor and it does also reinforce the reality of the life cycle.

Pictures, videos, shared memories, grave site visits, moments of reflection and humor are all ways that kids that learn to express their grief and help their parents express their own as well.

I watched this powerful video today where the speaker mentions how powerful it was to see his dad break down and cry when they buried his dead brother. At the same time, his dad praised him for not showing emotion or crying and interpreted crying as a weakness for a man. Our sons and daughters sometimes need the emotional release of tears. They should be welcomed.

Thanks for a wonderful post, as usual.


Sojourner Marable Grimmett said...

Thank you so much for your kind words.