I have a had such a positive response to this Guest Blogger Series that I have decided to post another sooner than planned. Why hang on to brilliant content by brilliant bloggers when it can be out there for all to read?! This week the lovely Kirsty from Winnettes is taking the reins and is talking about explaining bereavement to a child. Over to Kirsty…
“Hello. I’m Kirsty, married with two daughters, Ellie (3) and Trixie (2). I blog about parenting and the baking that we do. We are born and bred British and therefore struggle to say no to tea and cake (or a queue). In my house the kettle is always on”.
Explaining Bereavement to a child
Death is a fact of life. It is completely unavoidable; it comes to us all at some point. When I was nursing I worked on a ward where sadly death was something I was very familiar with. Not only that but a sense of bereavement and loss. As a stroke ward many patients and their relatives mourned the loss of mobility, the loss of faculties, the loss of speech. There is a lot of evidence that suggests a huge change like this initiates a strong emotional process for those involved, not just the patient. (https://www.stroke.org.uk/what-stroke/common-problems-after-stroke/emotional-changes)
This is part of the reason I don’t miss that career. By the grand old age of 27 I was getting depressingly good and knowing which of my patients didn’t have long left in this world. It is not a skill or intuition I have ever wanted. Of course the odd person would slip through my intuitive net and my Granny was one of them.
She wasn’t my patient, I had quit nursing by then, she was simply my Granny. I had seen her two weeks before and despite her usual aches and pains she was in really good spirits. Then one day I received the call from my Mum that she has passed away. It was sudden and it was a shock. She went quickly and certainly wouldn’t have known much about it. Now perhaps my working experience has helped me in many ways. Naturally I was sad about it at first but then I began to think about it all. I mean really think about it.
Granny was old. Ok, not ancient by any stretch but she had lived a good life and even though she felt young at heart her body had aged beyond its years. She has a medical history not just as long as my arm but the length of my head to my toes. Logically it is only thanks to the marvels of medical science she lasted past 50.
Granny was happy. She was really happy, despite having lost her husband a few years ago she had found a companion. She had started playing bowls and made some really good friends. Her social life was busier than anyone else I know!
Granny had things to look forward to. She was meant to go to America in April to see her sister and the rest of the family. She had a business class ticket booked courtesy of her nephew and she was so excited about it all.
She passed away quickly. As I said before, she wouldn’t have known much about what was going on, there was no prolonged hospital stay and she died with all her marbles still firmly in the bag.
I have no regrets. This may be selfish but lets all be brutally honest with ourselves. Much of our grief stems from the dark place of regret. You didn’t say the things you wish you had said. You didn’t see them enough, tell them you loved them enough, and show them how much they meant to you. Well I did all of that and very recently. I have seen her and my grandma once a month for quite a while now. We all regularly put the world to rights. I had seen her two weeks previously where I had cooked for her, she had played with the girls and we had chatted for hours. I spoke to her on the phone for over half an hour on Christmas Eve and I told her things I would never tell anyone else in my family. We were close and I have no regrets.
So all in all I feel pretty ok with her passing. So why can’t I tell my daughter?
Trixie is too young to really understand or even notice her absence. Ellie isn’t. We are going to see Grandma still, of course, and Granny won’t be there. Ellie will notice. She was there when I received the phone call but it was past her bedtime so Hubby quickly whisked her off to give me some privacy. Since then I have pretty much avoided the subject in front of her. It isn’t that she is unfamiliar with the concept of death. We had many in depth conversations about it around Remembrance Day but she hasn’t experienced it within the family yet. I don’t believe it will even bother her that much. Ellie was very fond of Granny but this doesn’t affect her day-to-day life and when we go on our monthly visits she will still get chocolate biscuits and ice cream.
I have done some research on the matter and everything says you should be up front and honest. Many resources claim that using phrases such as ‘gone away’ or ‘passed on’ is not helpful as children think far more literally. Although to an adult ear the word ‘dead’ or ‘died’ is really harsh or blunt it is the only final phrase children will accurately process. It signifies an end. (http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/death.html)
There is a brilliant website http://childbereavementuk.org that offers some really helpful advice on child berevement. It also highlights how children can process and understand bereavement according to their age and developmental stage. (http://childbereavementuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/1.4-Childrens-Understanding-of-Death-at-different-ages-1.pdf?noredir=true)
Fortunately Granny isn’t having a funeral because despite what some people may think I wouldn’t have taken the girls. Each to their own, but for me a funeral is a place to say goodbye and I don’t think the girls are old enough to appreciate that but too old to keep happy in a pushchair. I have been to more funerals for friends of my own age than I would have liked by now and because of this I don’t want to expose them to it yet. It is the right choice for us. That said there is a party for her, a memorial of sorts where there will be upbeat music and food. They will more than likely come with us to that but there is still time for me to change my mind.
I am hoping that when the time comes to answering Ellie’s questions I have processed my own grief enough to answer them truthfully and eloquently without too much emotion. She feeds off my feelings so keeping a level voice is going to be essential to help her accept Granny dying and to ensure she doesn’t focus on it for weeks to come.
I want to say a huge thank you to Kirsty for sharing such a personal post with us, during what must be a difficult time. Our thoughts are with you Kirsty. Don’t forget to grab your ‘featured on’ badge from the bottom of the page.
If you would like to get involved in the Guest Blogger Series, drop me a message by filling in the form on my Contact Me page. I look forward to hearing from you.