If you are worried about your other children and how they are coping with the death of their sibling, I completely recommend seeking professional help. Counselors can be so helpful not just to your children but for yourself as well, they can guide you on ways to help your children and you may not have to have regular visits. Seek out help. Below are some things that I have learned along the way that worked for us but please know that this is not advice and should not replace professional advice.
Scarlett was under the age of 2 when Christian died. She did not understand what had happened. All she knew was that things had changed and that her parents were upset. We did our best to keep to our normal routine and made extra time to show her she was loved and safe.
Be Honest. We are currently in the process of explaining Christian’s death to all of our girls. Scarlett and River speak about death and dying often. We try to just speak very calmly to our children about it. We have told them that death is as natural and normal as birth. They have had many questions, none of which we felt that we could not handle, because we have allowed ourselves to be honest and say “I don’t know” when we don’t have the answers. The hardest question Scarlett has asked us is “Why?”. We have told her that sometimes things happen in life and we don’t ever really know why. We as a family believe in a Divine Intelligence and that there is a place that where our souls go to after this life and so we share this belief with our children. For those of you who do not believe in an afterlife and are struggling to help your children, there are some things that you can say to them. You could explain to them just how amazing life is and that everything on Earth dies. The plants, the animals and the people. When we die, our bodies become apart of the Earth. Concentrate on the miracle of life. My friend who is an atheist has helped her children that way.
We Show Our Feelings. We are blessed that our girls have handled the passing of their brother so well. We do not hide our tears from them. We explain that it is normal to feel sad because we miss and love Christian. We reassure them that they are loved by us and that they are safe.
Allow Them To Express Their Own Feelings. We encourage our girls to speak openly about their brother, but we never force them to. We tell them that whatever they are feeling is okay and that they can talk to you about it, no matter what. If they know that they will be accepted with however they are feeling they will feel more safe to open up about what they are going through.
Making Them Feel Secure. Children need security to feel safe. Try to keep to the normal routines that you had in the house beforehand as this will help to stabilize the situation. Hugs on the couch will help. Laying with them as they go to sleep. We decided that a puppy was a beautiful way to help bring joy back into our home again. Obviously, this is a huge thing to do and is more often than not, something that just isn’t possible, but it is just another idea.
Get Creative. Children love art and craft. A lovely activity you could do with them is to create their sibling’s name. You can use mixed medias. Paints, feathers, beads, shells, coloured pencils and textas. Once they have completed their atwork they can keep it up in their bedroom. Allow your child to create their own piece of art. Let them decide on the colours that they want to use. This way you are allowing them to fully express themselves through art. Allow them to create a space in your home for their sibling. This would be a beautiful healing experience not just for them, but for yourself. Another idea is to ask them to help you create a special garden for their sibling. It does not have to be some sort of grand and expensive project, it could be a simple as planting some seeds into a flower pot. Children are fearless when it comes to being creative. We can all learn from them. Let their spirits speak through their art.
Keepsakes In Memory Of Their Sibling. This could be a photograph or a teddy bear, maybe a special blanket. Having something tangible for them to remember their sibling by will be of some comfort to them.
Explaining Cremation.To read about how I explained the process of creation to my children click here.
Explaining Burials. Coming soon
Peaceful Visualization. If your child seems to be distressed over the death of their sibling, always consult your trusted health professional for advice. Something that I have tried with my daughters if they are ever upset is a peaceful visualization session where they picture their brother in a beautiful place. I put on some calming music, something instrumental and then I get into bed with my daughters or wrap them up in a blanket on a couch and just like story time, I tell them a story about their brother. I ask them to close their eyes. If they don’t want to close their eyes, they don’t have to. If they have been particularly upset I do a little breathing exercise with them to calm them down. I get them to visualize their favourite colours as clouds in the sky. I ask them to paint a sunset in their minds. Sometimes the girls tell me what colours they are using. If your children want to speak, let them. Once they are calm, I start to tell the a story about their brother. I describe him as a beautiful healthy, little boy who lives in a magical place. I describe the place as an environment that I know my daughters would love at their age. I make sure that I keep the story completely positive, not like a normal story where there is a problem that the main character has to overcome. To end the visualization I usually tell the girls about how Christian becomes their favourite colours that they painted in the sunset and as the colours disappear he turns into a sky full of sparkling stars for us to see. They seem to love that ending. Giving your child a positive visualization of their sibling allows their imagination to open up and create their own positive visualization which helps to relieve anxiety.
Books. There are some beautiful books available that help explain death to young children. Some of these are listed below. They have been recommended by bereaved parents from all over the world. It can be done in such a gentle way.
Waterbugs and Dragonflies
There is a scene in the movie The Princess and The Frog where one of the characters in the movie dies. It is done so beautifully gentle. I really recommend it.
Above all, your children just need your love and the wonderful thing about this is that you have endless amounts of love to give them. So love them, nurture them and allow them to be however they need to be during their grief journey.
Wishing you and your children all the healing and blessings in the world.