Need Help to Help My Daughter Cope with Death

Updated on November 01, 2006
A.D. asks from Fort Myers, FL
9 answers

A few days ago a very close friend of our family passed away. It was a surprise to us all. I sat my 6 year old daughter down to talk with her about it. This was not the first time that we have had to give her news like this. She lost a woman who was like a grandma to her last year, and just a couple weeks ago, our elderly neighbor passed. All too much for such a young girl to deal with. Last night she was crying and I went into her room and just held her for a little while, and asked her to tell me what she was thinking and how she felt. Well, I really was not prepared for what she said. She doesnt want anyone else to come into her life. She said she is tired of people she loves leaving to go to heaven. She is now terrified of someone in our family (my husband, other daughter, or myself) passing. This morning she cried and cried that she didnt want to go to school, worried I wouldnt be there to get her afterward. How can I help her understand this better, and calm her worries? Also, with all this in consideration, my husband and I are trying to determine rather or not she should attend our friends funeral. I am not sure if it will help her, or further harm her.

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much to everyone for all of the thoughts, and suggestions. We are doing much better now. She did decide that she wanted to go to the funeral. She did great. She cried and grieved, but she handled it better than some of the adults there. I think, in her case, it has helped her very much to go the funeral. I think she sees that its okay to cry and be upset, but at the same time, its okay to smile, laugh and remember the good memories. She has been drawing lots of pictures of her loved ones up in heaven. I feel this is helping her very much. She drew one over the weekend of them all looking down on her drawing this picture. It really was touching. Again, I just wanted to say thank you. I pulled some advise from each response, and I feel everything will work out fine from here.

More Answers

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B.M.

answers from Orlando on

I am sorry for the losses your daughter has experienced. It certainly is a lot in a short period of time expecially to such a young child. My husband is a funeral director, so I might have a different perspective on this than others. The decision to take your daughter to the funeral depends on her. Explain to her what she will see, (people crying, talking about the deceased, the flowers, the room, the casket, and if it will be open or not) then talk to her about it. Tell her it is OK to cry, but more importantly, it is OK to laugh too. People often feel bad or disrespectful if they laugh at such a sad time, but it is a tribute to the deceased that there are good memories.

I would suggest taking her, but allow her to decide how far to go. She may not want to go into the viewing room, just reassure her that it is OK, and be prepared for someone to take her home if she becomes too upset or decides the whole thing is too much. Some funeral homes have "children rooms" with books, toys and TVs. I would suggest contacting the funeral home ahead of time to see if they have a room for her and the other children attending.

Books, as suggested by other mothers, are good and will help her you discuss how she is feeling. Some funeral homes have people trained to deal with grief on staff, and can suggest books on the topic that would be age appropriate. They may even have books to lend to you.

Death is a part of life. You do not want to over emphasize that with her, but because it has been such a focus lately, try to talk about it with her when she wants to. If you are religious, put it in those terms. Remind her of the lives each person lived, and try to take some of the focus off of the death, but always let her know it is normal and ok to be sad.

Hope this helps.

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M.

answers from Orlando on

Amanda,
Good Day to you.....
I would like to advise that she understand the gift she is able to give while the people are here. Understanding that God has a plan and that heaven is unimaginablely blissfull. The people that have departed, she will see again. Life here is temporary and while we are here it is important to touch people. Those that have left her, left behind a piece of them in her heart (touching her) that she might reach out to someone else and help change a life so to speak.
She has a job to do, as do we all. From birth we start learning and once we reach an age of "understanding" we need to do that job. God's work is sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, a lot of times never ending, but it is God's work and she has to live on the legacy of those who have departed. Meaning the good they left her with, she needs to share and bless others with.
If you attend church they of course will be able to help her understand also. Tell her it's okay to cry and grieve. From the beginning of time it has been so. M. sobbed for Jesus. It is natural, but we still have a job to do, to be sure we end up back to our loved ones. Giving her a responsibility may help her understand we move on.
Bless you and yours, She'll pull through mom.....

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P.P.

answers from Orlando on

Even though funerals generally bring closure to people lives it sounds like it's not something she's really ready for. Unless you ask her and let her make the decision rather she wanted to go or not. she sounds like a pretty bright young lady. If she knows the person and would like to get closure, than I'd say let her go. But on the other hand you have to know rather it is going to do her more harm than help her. the best way to help this child through this delema is to meet her on her level. You must go to the book store, get children books on said topics sit down and read them to her. There are books out there with fun illustrations for children that have a hard time dealing with death. Get the books they will help her tremendously.

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S.F.

answers from Lexington on

Amanda, my heart breaks for your daughter. This put tears in my eyes...no child should feel that way and I'm so sorry she is going through this. My advice would be for her to not go to the funeral.....I don't thinkg it would be a good idea for her to see the body. I think maybe you should try to sit her down once every day and talk to her about how she feels. She'll come around..it's just that all these deaths are happening so rapidly, her poor little heart is breaking for everyone. Encourage her to possible write or draw pictures of how she feels and remind her of all the good memories with these people and reassure her that even thought they are gone, they are still alive in her heart and they still love her very much. Time will heal her wounds and she is very lucky to have such a caring mother.

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J.W.

answers from Boca Raton on

When my son was 6 my husbands mother who lived with us died. It was kind of hard to explain to him about her death. I do not recommend taking her to the funeral UNLESS she askes to go and pushes the issue. Many of my family members have died and my son is now 8 and from ages 6 to 8 about 7 family members and close friends have died. We have explained to my son that they are not gone forever but that they did go somewere where they will never feel pain, sorrow or any other bad thing and that they are just waiting for when we get old and grey so that they can be there to make us feel comfertable when it is our time to go. I also sad down with him and asked him what he tought about death what did he think it ment and what he thought happens. find out what she thinks it is maybe she just does not understand what death is.

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M.C.

answers from Orlando on

i feel her pain. I had to explain to daughter last month that she wouldn't be able to see her daddy anymore. (he was murdered)what is helping is i still have her draw pictures and when she gets older write letters to him and we "mail" them to him and at night while she is sleeping an angel comes and takes the letter or picture to him. she is still upset and cries for him but i encourage her to draw for him and it helps her get over it.

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E.L.

answers from Orlando on

I know where you are coming from. We have 3 children - 13B, 11G & 4G years old - and we have dealt with several deaths within the past 2 years also - a 21 month old neighbor, a 9 year old girl (my middle daughter's childhood friend), and just recently my father in law. My 11 year old took all the deaths very hard.

Her guidance counselor at school proved to be a major help for her (and for us helping her grieve). Allow your daughter time to grieve - she's feeling the same things we feel, sad, confused, scared, etc. Continue to encourage her that everything will be okay and that you love her.

I would definitely allow her to go to the funeral. Many funerals (like my f-i-l) are about celebrating a person's life and how we continue to carry them with us. She deserves the closure that a funeral can provide.

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V.

answers from Orlando on

I would suggest praying with her about it. But if that's not for you, then the local library has a lot of books that can help small ones deal with pain and loss. It also could be just how she's dealing with it. The books will help guide you, and put it in a way that she understands as well. Keyword: Grief in Children. There are also videos available as well.

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J.N.

answers from Lakeland on

Hello. I was browsing the website and came across your question. I current work for Good Shepherd Hospice and we have a childrens center for bereavement services. It is extended to the whole community and not those who lost people while under hospice care. The program is really great and have a lot of good activities to help children through the grieving and dying process. It is just an idea of something that could help her understand more.