Friday, October 5, 2012

Explaining Death

Friends and acquaintances dying is new territory for us.  In most peoples minds kids just don't die, and you never think one day it could be someone your kid knows.  It has happened and we have spent the last week trying to explain it, answer questions, deciding what to do.  In our case the school had already explained the circumstances to the kids.

On Monday Roger came home from school and said "school was depressing some kid I know died." Umm what? He handed me a note from the school and said he was going to go ride his bike.  The page long note from the school explained that a 8th grader from the school had died the previous weekend.  On Saturday evening he went flying with his dad and there was an accident, neither father or son survived.

When Roger came back in I asked if he knew the boy?  He wasn't really sure, he knew he wasn't someone he hung out with on a regular basis, once he saw a picture of him he said yes I kind of knew him.  It does not matter if you know the person or not when someone your age from your school dies it hits everyone in the school.

Most adults are at a loss when it comes to death, sometimes there is just no explanation or reasoning that can make it make sense.  With the death of a friend it opens that thought to a child that it could be them.  They may have questions, they may not.  What we found has worked for us is to let Roger lead. If he has a question he will ask it, if he wants to bring it up he can but I am not pushing him.  When he wants to say something he will and you just listen.  There is no right or wrong way to feel.

As for the funeral I left the choice to him. Just like with adults some people need to go to a funeral they need that closure others do not, it is a personal decision.  Roger is 13 now and some of these choices he can make for himself.  He was given three options a) go to the funeral, b) stay home, c) go to school.  He chose to go to school, even though many kids and teachers will not be there he still wanted to stick with what is normal for him.

When it comes to autism I call BS on all the articles I saw that said a person with autism does not understand death.  He understands he may show his emotions differently and may have trouble finding the right words, but just because you do not respond as people think you should does not mean you do not understand.  He knows K will not be returning to school ever.  He knows and understands death is permanent.   

Sometimes we just don't give our kids credit for being able to handle things.  They really can, it is expected for them to be upset, confused, anxious they need to know thats ok and perfectly normal.  They need to know its ok to be mad, its ok to be sad, its ok to not know how you feel.  Not many adults know how they feel after an unexpected death.  If we don't know how do we expect our kids to know.

Overall the best thing we can do when helping our child deal with death doesn't matter if it is a grandparent or a friend is to just be there.  Let them set the pace, don't push them to talk if they do not want too.  Of course as parents watch them.  Pay attention and if there is any sign that they are not processing or handling well get them someone to talk to.  Don't wait if your gut says they need help get them help.


  1. Im sorry you have had to explain this sensitive topic to your child. It sounds like u have done a great job of it though.