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Thinking Out Loud: Children

Thinking Out Loud: Children
   Children are precious gifts from God, and we need to remember them when the family is going through a tragic death.  Children who are old enough to love are old enough to grieve.  Children and teenagers grieve just as deeply as adults, even if their grief may seem to appear different at different times and for different age groups.  When a loved one dies, the behavior of adults “teaches” children about how to deal with grief loss.
   Healthy families care about one another’s feelings, have healthy communication, and trust one another.  We need to teach our children it’s all right to feel sad.  We don’t stuff our feelings but express them with each other.  We even carve out time to process feelings that arise as life happens.  If need be, we will act upon those feelings in constructive, healthy ways.  If possible,
reframe the events that created these feelings so they can be a learning experience, rather than a negative offense or a horrible feeling of failure.  Children need to learn how to express their feelings without shame or fear of punishment, ridicule, or being laughed at.
   The second element of a healthy family is that they communicate in a high-quality way.  We adults need to communicate helpful affirmative information that will build up our children and young people and assist them in their thinking and feeling process.  Rest assured, conflict and offenses will come.  It’s unavoidable!  But healthy families deal with each issue and talk it out.  Children have their own timing for expressing their loss and will more likely do so without pressure.  Some children are initially reluctant to ask questions or talk about their feelings.  Yet,
grieving children need reassurance for their fears, thoughts, and observations.  Our response needs to be with love and warmth, and we shouldn’t be surprised if a child asks the same questions many times in different ways.  We need to respond to questions in terms and examples appropriate to the age of the child, but we need to choose our words carefully.  For example, young children interpret words literally.  Telling a child “That Grandmother went to sleep and now she’s in heaven” may only instill fear in the child that they too may “go to heaven” in their sleep.  The key point here is that talking is essential in overcoming hurting hearts of children, teens, and even adults.
   The third element is that healthy families build trust with each other.  If we don’t care about each other’s feelings and we don’t communicate in a healthy way, then we are not going to trust one another at all.  We need to help children look beyond their pain and fears, helping them to place the loved one that’s passed away in a special place of honor in their memories and to remember joyous times with that cherished loved one.  We need to encourage our children to focus upon the positive and winsome virtues that this special person instilled into our lives.
   At Scissortail Hospice, we want you to know we are here for you.  We care for you and your wonderful family.  Please let us know what we can do to be a blessing in your life.
John T. Catrett, III
Scissortail Hospice Chaplain
306 North Main Street, Suite E
Bristow, OK 74010

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