Great Answers to Difficult Questions About Death

PrefaceHonoring children's questionsDevelopmental understandingsWhat to say and how to say itWhy did my mom have to die?Tanya (6): a case studyWhy did my mom die?Is my mom coming back?I wrote my mom a letter and put it in the mailbox. Why doesnt she write back?Todays my moms birthday. Why didnt anybody mention her name? That makes me angry.My mom had a cold. I didnt make her stay home that day. Is it my fault she died?Tanya (9)Its been three years since my mom died. Why am I still wondering about why she died?I want to know more of the facts about why my mom had to die. Can you tell me how to find out the details?What happened at the accident? Who was the person driving the car? Where did it happen?But what happened to Moms body?Tanya (11)Its been so long since Mom died. I still get sad . Why do I miss her so much?What can I do? I still dont understand why she had to die. Can you help me understand why she died?Can you tell me about the man who was driving the car? Someone told me he was a drunk driver.Im never going to drink and drive. And I won't let my friends. I am so angry. He should be punished. Why wasnt he paying attention? What was he doing? Did he go to jail?No matter bow much time he spent in prison it wouldnt be enough - not enough to bring back my mom. Can I help stop drunk drivers?I thought of a project. I would like to help my school have an assembly on drunk driving. Do you think I could tell my story to other children?Who can I talk to about this? Who would understand?Concluding thoughtWhat does dead mean? How do people die?Greg (5): a case studyWhat does death mean?What cant you do when your body doesnt work?But where does his body go?Can I put in a picture of me? He would like that. Then he wont feel so alone. Lets put his toy in too.Can we bury Jasper together?Alex (9)My mom died of cancer. What does cancer mean?How did it make my mom die?Why do all the good people like my mom die young? Kyle (11; brother killed in drive-by shooting)My mom said my brother Tony died in an accident. A boy at school said he was murdered. How did Tony really die?Did they find the person that shot him?I dont like to talk about the shooting. That worries my mom. Is it OK?I keep imagining what happened. Its scary. Can I get shot?Tommy (8; dad died of suicide)How did my dad die?People say heart attack, stroke, drugs, or they just dont know. What really happened?Mary (12; dad died of suicide)I cant even remember my dad. He died when I was 2. My mom says it was an accident. I didnt believe her anymore. Id heard so many stories I decided to look up the facts in the newspaper. It was suicide. How can I ever believe my mom again?I feel better knowing the truth. Now everything makes sense. Is it wrong to be so angry with my mom?Concluding thoughtWhere was God when I needed him? How could God let my brother die?Sara (5): a case studyMy mom said Grandma was so good God took her away. Arent I good too? Why doesnt God want me?Julian (7)My brother Sam was so ill. We took him to the doctors and gave him all of his medicine. How could God still have let him die?I think Sam is in heaven with God and they are watching over me. Do you think God is helping Sam in heaven? Adam (11)am so angry with God. I hate God. It's Gods fault my dad got hit by a car.I cant even say a prayer. I dont believe in God anymore!The only question I have now is why did God have to kill my dad?Amelia (9)After my sister died I wanted to know more about God. What is God? What do different people believe?Concluding thoughtWhere is my person? What is heaven?Marc (12): a case studyIs it OK to feel like my dad is really at the cemetery?Even though the cemetery feels peaceful, I still cant believe my dad is dead. 1 didnt say goodbye. Can I go to the spot where Dad was killed?Sally (6)My aunt Jenny told me Mom had gone on a long trip.Why didnt she take me with her? And how could she go on a long trip if she died of cancer?My mom died in the hospital. I am so sad. I am always looking for her. Is Mom a butterfly that goes by? Is she saying hello?I think every time I see a butterfly, it is my mom saying hello. Is that OK?If my mom is with me, is she watching over me all the time? That could be very embarrassing.Joey (7): a case studyI think Alex is in heaven. What do you think heaven is like?OK. I think heaven is a place where everyone has a friend. Theres a golden palace that only special people live in. Alex loved coffee so much. Do you think they have coffee shops in heaven?My brother loved pizza and playing soccer. Do you think he is scoring goals in heaven?Alex coached my soccer team and we always got pizza after the game. I think Ill wear his soccer shirt the next time I come. Is that OK?I worry about my brother a lot. I have nightmares and cant sleep. I keep seeing his house on fire. If he was very injured and died, how did he get to heaven?I think a huge fire truck with God as the chief lifted Alex into the clouds and took him to the Alex Rescue Medical Center in heaven. Doctors and nurses gave him bandages, medicine, and his favorite licorice and potato chips. Do you think God is taking care of Alex?I think God is hugging Alex in heaven. He is happy and laughing and has all the medicine he will ever need to feel good.Sometimes I think Alex could get lonely in heaven. I hope he has company. Do you think our dog Maxwell is with him? Thats our dog that died.Concluding thoughtMy mom is dying. What can I do?Sophie (8): a case studyIm so sad. I love my mom and she is dying. I want to help her. What can I do?I would like to give her something special of mine my music box. Is that OK?Can Mom and I still do things together?Rafi (6)I heard my Mom say Grandpa is going to die. That makes me so sad. Is Grandpa really going to die?How can I help Grandpa?Ill make a big heart with I LOVE YOU on the bottom. Will I get to see Grandpa again? Where is he?What is a hospice?Can I say goodbye?Can I bring flowers with my I LOVE YOU heart?I sat on Grandpas bed and held his hand. He smiled at me and I smiled back. Then I squeezed his hand, said I love you, and decided to leave. Was that OK?Jarrett (12): a case studyWhats wrong with Uncle Adam? Is it my fault?What is AIDS?Why is it a secret?Can I catch it?What does terminal mean?Concluding thoughtI am very ill. Who can I talk to about dying?Emily (10): a case studyWell, living with cancer is hard. Living with it and knowing you might die is even harder. Will you talk about dying with me?Nobody wants to talk to me about dying especially my mom and dad. They just cry. How can I make them feel happy?I know. They love to watch me dance. I want them to remember me as a beautiful ballerina, dancing in heaven. Do you think that would make them feel good?My brother Max gets angry with me for being ill. He wants my presents. What should I do?Sometimes I wonder - when and where will I die?If I had a choice, I would like to die at home. But what will I do with all of my stuff?My best friend Beth can have my dolls, and I think my brother Max would like my TV. My little sister Amy can have all of my stuffed animals - all except Tiger. Can I keep Tiger for me?I feel happy now. It feels good to talk about dying and make some plans. Now I feel I can go on living and not worry so much.Concluding thoughtI worry a lot. Will I die too? Will you die too?Peter (7): a case studyScottie (7; Peter's friend in second grade)Since Peter died I get lots of headaches. Will I die too?I have one question. Can I catch what Peter had?Sometimes I think about Peter at school. I dont feel like eating and my tummy hurts. What should I do?My worry does go right to my tummy. It hurts.It is hard for me to pay attention in school. I daydream a lot and think I am going to cry when I think about Peter. Then I want to call home. What should I do?Sarah (11; Peter's older sister)I worry a lot that if Peter can die, my mom and dad can too. What would happen to me? Who would take care of me?Julie (6; Peter's younger sister)Since Peter died, I worry about going to sleep. If I sleep I have bad dreams. Will I die if I go to sleep?But at Peters funeral I heard my aunt say Peter is at rest. That makes me worry about even taking a nap.But I still have so many nightmares. I wake up screaming and crying. What can I do to stop the worry?Concluding thoughtWill I forget my dad? What if I forget him? How can I remember?Margie (7): a case studyIm afraid I will forget my dad. What can I do to remember him?I know. I like the picture of Dad and me making a snowman.Sometimes I cant remember his voice; or even what he looks like. That scares me. What if I forget my dad?My sister saved Dads voice on a mobile phone message. My mom has a video of Dad and me. Can I share them with you?Amber (12; Margie's older sister)I miss Dad so much. Moms angry, Margies sad, and sometimes I cant even talk about it. What can our family do to remember him together?Our family went to a support group together. We made a big family banner about Dad and talked about it. Can I show it to you?We shared the banner the last night of the group. I wore Dads favorite purple hat and we brought a pizza for everyone to remember Dad. But how can we remember together at home?Ill put my tape of Dad playing the guitar and a picture of Dad in his army uniform. He was in a rock-and-roll band.Is there anything else our family can do together to remember Dad?It hurts to think about the holidays without Dad. It makes me sad. What can we do to remember Dad at Christmas? Jonathan (10; Margie's older brother)I like to draw and write. I think about Dad when I am alone and remember a lot. Can I make something about those memories?I have my dads wallet. It means a lot to me. Can I make a special place to keep it?Ill keep the memory box next to my bed and put in Dads old football cards too. It makes me feel close to him to have things he loved.Concluding thoughtIs it my fault my mom died? Did she suffer?James (12): a case studyWas she calling me when she died?Dad said she was calling him, not me. But I still should have gotten her the directions. Is it my fault my mom died? Arthur (6)One time I was angry with my mom. I told her I wished she were dead. Did that make it happen?My mom picked me up the night she died. Then she had a heart attack. Did that kill my mom?Suzie (7; dad killed in terrorist attack)My dad had a cold the day of the attack. Couldnt I have saved him if I made him stay home that day? Why didnt I call him and warn him the terrorists were coming?If only I had made my dad stay home, warned him on the mobile phone, or given him a big ladder to take to work to escape. I could have saved him. Is it my fault he died?Michael (10; dad died in military combat)I get so scared when I picture the way my dad died. I cant stop thinking about it. Do you think my dad suffered?Heres my picture. The tank is exploding and Dad is on the ground. Look - he is all alone. Do you think he had help?I do want to find out what happened that day. I want to know the facts.Im glad I learned my dad wasnt alone and didnt suffer. Its nice to picture him surrounded with people who cared. It helps me not to worry about him so much.I had a dream about my dad after our meeting. Dad was wearing his best uniform and gave me a hug. Do you think that means he is all right?Concluding thoughtHow do other kids grieve? Sometimes I feel so aloneKate (6)My doggy Lucky died. Im so sad. He got hit by a car and killed. Can I talk to Lucky?I love you, Lucky. I miss you a lot. I hope youre having fun and that God plays ball with you every day. Can I still help Lucky?I would have moved Lucky out of the way like this. I wish I could tell him Im sorry. I wonder what he would say?I would say, I love you, Lucky" and Lucky would lick my face. I like the sand table and puppets. They help me talk to Lucky.My mom worries about me and says I act different. She thinks something is wrong with me. Im tired a lot and nap with Luckys toy on my bed where he slept with me. Is that OK?My dad thinks I should play with my friends the way I used to before Lucky died. But sometimes Im sad and want to be alone. Do you understand?Sometimes in school I think about Lucky so much I cant pay attention. Then my teacher gets angry with me and calls my mom. What can I tell her?Concluding thoughtIm scared too. What can I do to feel safe?George (6): a case studyWhy am I always so scared?If my mom is late, is she at the restaurant where Tyrone got murdered?But I think the bad guy is at the restaurant with Mom. Every time I realize Mom isnt at the restaurant, I feel better. But I still stay up at night and cant stop the bad thoughts. How could this have happened to me? What should I do?Will these bad and sad feelings and thoughts ever stop coming?I hit a boy on the playground, because I knew he was going to hit me. 1 hit him before he could. Do other children feel like that after something bad happens?I get angry a lot. I feel like punching someone.It helps to get out my anger. I feel stronger now. I drew myself with big muscles and said, This is me now. I am a lot stronger than I thought.Jack (9): a case studyI dont want my dad to go camping. I am afraid he will get killed too. What can we do to help me feel he will he safe?I like that idea. I want them to take the van. It is the safest. But will they call me?Dad and Jacks listDad said OK to everything and was happy to do it. We even added that Dad would bring me back a surprise. I feel better now. But I still get scared something bad will happen again.I think 1 will draw green trees with beautiful birds of every color flying in the breeze or perched on a branch. I think I will feel happy when I look at that picture. What else can I do?I want roast beef, baked potatoes, and cherry pie. It makes everything seem normal again to think about having that dinner with everyone. Mom used to make that for all of us and it was delicious!Concluding thoughtHow can I remember with my friends and family? Can I go to the funeral too?Jason (6): a case studyWhat should we do with Wyatts desk?What can we do with the stuff inside?I miss Wyatt a lot at school. So do my friends. What can we do to remember him at school?We had a class meeting and decided to bake his favorite peanut butter cookies, make a class mural, and create a class quilt. Can you help us with that?What is a memorial service? Can I come?Can we share memories at the service?I want to share my picture of Wyatt and me on the junior soccer team. Can I do that?Jeremy (9)My grandfather died. Where do they put his body? What is a funeral? Can I go?My grandma was talking about going to the cemetery to put Grandpas body in a grave. What is a cemetery? Can children go?My friend Rick says his grandpa wanted to he cremated instead of buried. What does cremation mean?What happens to the body?Is it better to be cremated or buried?Concluding thoughtA final noteWe cant protect children from lifes tragedies, but we can ease their journey by responding openly to their questions.APPENDIX 1. A checklist for childrenAPPENDIX 2. For caring adultsCommon signs of grieving childrenAPPENDIX 3. Useful websites and childrens resources
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