Home' Aurora : Aurora August 2011 Contents 13
www.mn.catholic.org.au | Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle |
THE EARLY 20TH century saw the removal
of death from the everyday lives of
children. Medical advances averted death,
the sick and dying were institutionalised
and the deceased were no longer cared
for in the family home but removed to
funeral homes. For children, death became
a secret or taboo subject. This misguided
protection and avoidance has meant that
sometimes, parents can feel unsure in
talking with children about death.
Both research and lived experience
demonstrate that denial or secrecy only
serve to heighten young people's distress.
The role of parents, guardians, families,
peers and others in both acknowledging
and supporting young people's grief cannot
be overestimated. By far the majority of
children with this support will emerge
psychologically sound, without the need for
The following practical suggestions may be
helpful, and there are sources of further
information at the end of the page.
•Grief cannot be scheduled. Each
individual grieves differently, and age,
personality, intellect, family support and
culture all have an influence. Two children
of the same age will grieve differently.
•Truth is critical for children/adolescents
in loss. Limiting information given
doesn't protect and can make them feel
excluded from the situation. With sensitive
preparation and support the young should
be encouraged to participate in family grief
and rituals surrounding loss eg intimate
time with the dying, vigils, storytelling
•In death, children's/adolescents' sense
of safety and of the predictability of life
are threatened. If they don't feel safe,
they won't be able to grieve. Therefore, it
is vital that as far as possible familiar
routines are maintained, especially
•Young children are the centre of their
own world so these little ones must know
that they will be cared for emotionally
•As they live in a world of magical and
fanciful thinking, they may believe their
thoughts, words or actions were the cause
of death. It is important to explore such
belief and relieve them of any guilt.
•They believe, thanks to cartoons, that
the dead will bounce back to life. So,
consider your words carefully when you
talk about death. Avoid saying, e.g. '...is
having a very long sleep', or 'has gone
on a wonderful journey' as the child may
be frightened to go to sleep or have loved
ones sleep or go on holidays.
•If you need to say that the loved one died
from illness, be sure to tell them that not
all illnesses lead to death.
•Lack of understanding means that a child
may seem not to react to the news of a
death. They will grow in understanding
as they are given opportunities to ask
questions and to listen. Some children
may hide their feelings in order to avoid
distressing their parents.
•Older children/adolescents are obviously
better equipped to understand the
permanence and causes of death, but
they may absorb information intermittently.
Do all you can to keep communication
open and free, and encourage expression
through play, drawing or writing,
•Listen carefully to children/adolescents
- both for what is said and what is not.
Young people need to ask questions in
order to understand and make sense of
the death and how it affects them. Short
answers are best. Always check their
interpretation of the message.
•Try to provide opportunities to do whatever
they enjoyed doing with the deceased.
Refer to photos and tell stories that keep
the deceased alive in happy memories.
•Be aware of the influence of non-verbal
communication. Children will observe
closely and interpret what they see.
As in every aspect of life, the young learn
most from those closest to them. If they
see trusted adults who talk, express their
sorrow and address the new reality in a
hopeful way, they will learn that they too
can cope, regain control, find meaning and
re-establish their sense of identity.
To learn more, please visit
seasons.htm and see also Webcite on
page 22. A longer version of Irene s article
is on the diocesan website at
MUREE GOLF CLUB - ONLY 10 MINS DRIVE FROM THE HEXHAM BRIDGE
walker crescent raymond terrace • ph 4987 2142 for more information
Who said there is no such thing as a free lunch?
Thursday Social Golf 18 holes of Golf $16
Plus we will throw in a free lunch Bistro open from 12pm-2pm Contact the Pro Shop on 4987 2978 For a tee time
National Grief and Loss Awareness Week occurs during August. Aurora invited Irene
Dixon, mother of seven and an experienced nursing sister who now ministers to the
dying and the bereaved in the Maitland district, to offer some practical advice.
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