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Parents and caregivers of a Grieving Child

Dear Parents and Caregivers of children,

Kudos to you for taking the time to bring comfort to a child during a time of grief. It is so meaningful to have someone talking with them about death and grief.

The items in this grief bag are meant to help a child cope with the death at their level. If you are using a Lisa’s Legacy bag for the very young children (white ribbon) you will find a book entitled “The Goodbye Book” which may help to give a name to the emotions and thoughts that they are experiencing. For older children, (purple ribbon) the book entitled “The Memory Box” with the included memory box of their own, helps a child take an active part if their own grief process. The soft teddy bear can bring comfort and be soothing to the child during times of sadness. Coloring the pages is a way to bring calm and relaxation to the recipient. Manipulation of the squeeze toy can often curb anxiety. The grief coloring book is intended to help children solidify memories of the loved one.

If there is more than one child in the household, there are several options when using a single bag. Copies can be made of the coloring pages and grief coloring book. Regarding the teddy bear, we suggest that you establish a specific location for the teddy bear---a comfy chair, a soft rug or a specific shelf. When any one of the siblings is feeling a need to “cuddle” they can go to that location to retrieve the stuffed animal. When you see them with the teddy bear it may tip you off that they are hurting. We also suggest that you stick to a rule that no one is allowed to tease, belittle or shame a sibling when they have the teddy bear. We suspect that if a child who is with the teddy bear is made to feel embarrassed, they will hide that emotion and the purpose of the teddy bear will be lost.

Guidelines for Talking with a Child about Grief

* When talking with the child about the death of a loved one, speak honestly at a level that the child can understand.

*If they have questions, try to answer them as best you can, keeping in mind that it is okay to say that we don’t know all the answers.

*Don’t be afraid to cry. Children can comprehend sadness and missing someone.

*Children tend to think literally, so when you say, “we lost grandpa last week,” they may think that you need to go find him. If you say “he’s gone to a better place,” a child again may want to go find him or find where that better place is. If you say “he’s standing at the pearly gates” think of what goes through a child’s mind when you say that, making them to want to find pearly gates. So it is best to use the words death or died.

* Every culture and family have their own funeral and death traditions. You will have to decide if there are appropriate ways the child can plan and participate with the activities. Generally, children often can gain a sense of closure with a funeral service. However, think about what impact the lowering of a casket into the ground may have on the child or the image of being cremated brings. If you feel that the child may be negatively impacted, get a babysitter for that portion of the funeral.

*While funerals are often a part of life, children learn and gain perspectives on death that they often will carry well into adulthood. Take time to think about how you can truly help the child by bringing caring and compassion to them at this difficult time.

Lisa’s Legacy is a 501 C 3 non-profit organization.

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