Helping Children Understand Death
All living things
have a beginning
and an end;
in between is living.
At some point in every childhood, a child will become aware of death and experience grief. How do we help them understand? How do we help them and give them the time they need to grieve?
There is a new book from the UUA bookstore that I find excellent for explaining death to UU children. Little Books About Big Stuff: About Death edited by Betsy Williams, Jane Rzepka, Ken Sawyer and Noreen Kimball starts with the death of a pet, which so many children experience as their first loss, and also discusses memorial and funeral services, what happens to bodies after death, and all the euphemisms people use for death. This is an excellent resource for UU families. I would also recommend Badger’s Parting Gifts andThe Tenth Good Thing About Barney.
In my own children’s encounters with death, I have found it beneficial for them to have a ritual way of saying goodbye. For pets, a simple burial ritual has helped us through many losses. When they lost their grandfather recently, we used a ritual with stones and a bowl of water, a copy of what we do at church with Joys and Sorrows, to talk about our memories and feelings.
If you want to create meaningful rituals, from the small to the big, a good resource for you is How to Bury a Goldfish: and other ceremonies and celebrations for everyday life by Virginia Lang and Louise Nayer. There is a chapter on rituals for death and grief.