How Do Most Children Understand Death
Most 5-6 years old do not have the abstract comprehension of what death is, they think that the deceased were only temporarily gone to the other side and would come back again after a while. These children mainly also think that they are immortal, death is reserved for the elderly.
As their cognitive functions develop over the time, they perceive death more realistically. Children of 6-10 age will discuss about the loss of bodily functions at death as well as visionary and imaginative ideas about the world beyond. Now they begin to grasp the permanent absence of the departed.
Children older than 10 years of age are afflicted with many questions pertaining to death and voice these eminently, "Why? Where to? What's next?" They accept the fact that death is a part of life cycle at this point.
Children Books Can Help
Some children books serve as good starting points to an open and child-friendly discussion about life, death, loss and grievance.
1. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages by Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D. (available on Amazon.com for $11.39)
The book is written in simple language and illustrated beautifully. It also conveys the deeper meaning of human existence : that we are all part of something bigger and will live on in the memories of our loved ones.
2. Gentle Willow: A Story for Children About Dying by Joyce C. Mills (available on Amazon.com for $4.95)
Amazing book to help any youngster to address the feelings turmoil they face when they loss a loved one.
3. Help Me Say Goodbye: Activities for Helping Kids Cope When a Special Person Dies by Janis Silverman (available on Amazon.com for $4.96)
When no word can express the sadness within, a picture is worth even more than a thousand words. With this book, any child is given the opportunity to actively voice their inner world even in silence.
Approching Children on The Devastating Theme of Suicide
1. Never conceal the fact
No matter how hard it is, honesty is the best policy. Some children would behave that the suicide event is something to be kept secret about, we could tackle this matter by building trust that the "secret" is safe, and it's also safe to talk about it openly between the trustworthy parties.
2. Many questions might be left unanswered
Encourage the children to accept that we as the left ones might only know part of the answers we like to have to our questions, as we cannot ask the deceased anymore on why he decided to do so.
3. Observe all emotions that arise and accept all of them
No feeling that comes out on the palette is wrong, the child should be free to be angry, sad, or experience fear. Other emotions such as guilty feeling, remorse and if the kid feels responsible for the suicide act should be worked through thoroughly.
4. Nightmares are normal
Ask the child of newly recurring nightmares and explain that this too, is a way of us human to say good-bye to and letting go the departed.
5. Keeping the deceased alive in loving memory
Many activities could be use here to keep the departed in the memory of the child. preparing a small table with pictures and flowers serves as personal altar, or cooking the favorite food of the departed, just to name a few. Using the help of technology such as reading old e-mails, text messages or even sending mails to the deceased's address are also possible.