Children naturalize death in a way that adults find it difficult to understand. How to instill in them the Faith to make them strong?
For a child there should be nothing more heartbreaking and paralyzing than watching their parents die. Keeva, a 10-year-old girl, knows about it, as both parents died of cancer within a week of each other, according to Mirror.
Karen had been battling terminal cancer since the age of 19. Years passed and the cancer continued to advance, but that did not prevent her from starting a family with Ed, with whom she had 3 children: Keeva, Finn and Erin. The only thing that separated this couple was death itself, who surprised them both just weeks apart, as Ed had also been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early 2017.
Karen’s aunt, Gina, said that her niece had fought cancer with great determination and strength, and that as a mother she had done everything possible for her children, whom she loved. “The only comfort we can find right now is that she is now with Ed, her husband,” she added.
A request to heaven
Keeva, the eldest of the three now orphaned siblings, gathered her courage to speak in front of dozens of family and friends at the funeral of her mother, who died at the age of 36. She had already been through this same situation weeks before, when her father died of cancer. On this occasion, and with a broken heart, her words trickled out of her throat oppressed by emotion, and she managed to express everything that was crossing her little head at that moment.
The funeral was taking place in austere and heartbreaking weather at the Church of Our Lady Immaculate in Darndale in Dublin, when everyone listened carefully to what the girl had to say: “I hope you both can enjoy eternal life,” Keeva said ruefully and with tears in his eyes.
The concept of eternal life for this child may ease the weight of the pain over the loss of her parents and help her to find explanations and certainties when in her adulthood she begins the retrospective path of reflection.
Help children cope with a great loss
Like Keeva, many children in the world are brought up in the Faith, which turns out to be a very useful tool to help them understand things like this. I have two young children and the only death they have faced so far was their first puppy. For them it was devastating, but the justification that their dog was in heaven left my oldest daughter somewhat more relieved and satisfied about it.
Sometimes adults do not know how to explain death to a child, however many times it is they who teach us, because of their simplicity and innocence in understanding things. Being honest and direct, and using language that the child can understand, will help the child feel confident and understand your words much better.
According to the Kid’s Health site, up to 5 or 6 years of age, the image that children of the world have is very literal. Therefore, death must be explained using concrete language. For example, if the person was sick, you can say that the body was no longer working and the doctors couldn’t fix it. Explaining that dying means that the body no longer works can give them a clearer idea about the reasons for death.
Protecting the child from pain is not a good idea, because as adults we must give them that space so that they feel free to show their feelings. We can tell them that crying is okay, that we respect their silence and that we are there, sharing their sorrow.
Facing death with Faith
For many people, Faith can be a great ally in helping children to grieve. Thinking that your loved one is in heaven with God, with the angels, with the grandmother, with the grandfather, can evoke feelings that help the little one to face the terrible situation.
Although reconciling Faith with reality can confuse us and generate contradictory messages, it is important to understand that Faith is something positive in order to overcome pain. And if the child is not yet ready to understand the greatness of the Faith after the painful loss of a loved one, we must not overwhelm or insist, but accompany and support them in this transition stage.