Gently Teaching A Child about Death
My mother-in-law passed away recently. My husband, his brother and sister have been grieving. They have an aunt who lives in California who is my mother-in-law’s sister.
My question is should the children, my husband, my brother-in-law, my sister-in -law be expected to send sympathy cards to their mother’s brother and sisters. I have a brother and I wouldn’t expect my nieces or nephews to send me a sympathy card when he passed away.
As you well know, it is not just about the sympathy card. It is about how as a parent you start talking to your child about the rituals of death and grieving.
Whether we realize it or not, everyone is brought up to deal with death in their own way and in their own time. Some experiences are of course better than others. The closer you are to a person, the deeper the grief and the longer the sadness of mourning. Experience teaches how to respond as we grow older and what we teach our children about accepting death.
You could say that we teach children about death and dying with baby steps. Your husband’s aunt is a perfect opportunity to gently show your children that it is alright to express emotion for someone who has died, and show them how to respond. By having the child see that you’ve bought a card to tell a relative you are saddened because you know they share your sadness, is a simple lesson. Albeit, a sweet gesture.
Obviously, there is no need to get into the gory details with young children, but discussing death should not be a taboo. Death in any family is an inevitable shock unto itself. Being sensitive to the changing emotions within a family for other family members makes sense to me.