Talk to children about death

By Dickson Tumuramye

I listened to a lady’s account of being a single mother after her husband’s untimely death. Her story resonated with me, highlighting the profound impact of grief.

It made me reflect on how older individuals who comprehend life questions like why, what, when, where, and how may still struggle with loss. But what about young children who cannot fully grasp death?

In this contemplative state, my mind wandered back to my own personal experience over fifteen years ago, when I lost my mother shortly after completing my university studies. Even to this day, it sometimes feels as though it were all a surreal dream.

Yet the uncertainty of whether I will ever have the opportunity to reunite with her lingers in my thoughts. The profound impact of death or other tragic events can leave individuals in a state of self-denial, struggling to come to terms with the irrevocable loss of a beloved parent.

In light of these reflections, it becomes essential to consider how we can support those who find themselves grappling with the loss of a father or mother. It is crucial to discuss loss, including the death of a loved one, with children. By sharing the possibility of a parent’s demise, we can help them understand and prepare for a future without them.

While this may be a difficult topic, it is a fact of life that cannot be avoided. Talking about death does not mean it will happen imminently. Since we do not know when we will pass away, it is wise to prepare our children for this inevitable event.

Begin by asking them how they perceive death or any kind of loss. And define to them what death or grief means in age-appropriate information.

Ask them how they would handle it if it happened to one of you as parents. Talk about issues that are likely to arise during that moment of grief. Share scenarios where a parent dies and relatives and other people fight for property.

Tell them what measures you have put in place to guard against such a thing happening and what they can also do. This helps unleash their anxiety.

Give them techniques for coping with grief and how to overcome depression if they are to thrive. Encourage them to focus on their lives rather than the dead ones who can never come back to life. Give them assurance that they are safe and being cared for by the remaining parent.

In this era of technology, they need to know that anyone can break the news at any time. However, before they clearly confirm the news, there is no need for alarm. We have seen many people in Uganda who have been pronounced dead when they are alive.

Thus, they need to know how to receive such news on social media and how to treat it. One way is to confirm with reliable sources before they panic and lose their minds.

Encourage them to always share their emotions because this is part of healing. It is very normal for everyone to express their feelings about the loss of loved ones or anything very dear to them. In case they ask questions, give them answers in a simple language they can understand, but don’t just brush them off. Know that every child can grieve differently.

Remind them to always put their trust in the Lord. The Bible says that “I will look unto the hills from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, the creator of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

Therefore, our help in times of trouble is only found in the Lord first and then in the good people around us. The word of God and prayers are key for every believer to stay strong and know that the Lord is there to help them. This, too, is what kept me going to date.

However, ensure that you don’t cause any unnecessary anxiety that would keep children in fear that one of you is soon dying because of such a terrifying topic that scares everyone living to think about it deeply.