Bruce Peninsula Hospice (BPH) volunteers and staff recently attended a half-day workshop about Children’s Grief hosted by North Perth Community Hospice in Listowel. The speaker was Andrea Warnick, a well-known children and grief specialist. Volunteer, Pat Roe, shares some of her notes:
- Think about the language we use when spending time with children in grief. Use the words “died”, “death”. Try not to use “lost”, “gone”, “passed away”. Say “I’m sad the person died” rather than “I’m sorry…”
- Allow children to ask questions in their time and space. Respond whenever and wherever it suits them; that might be while doing a puzzle or a video game.
- Give answers to their questions but don’t go beyond that with more information until they are ready.
- Initial conversations could start with the entire family and then may take place separately according to the child’s age/level of understanding/need.
- “4 c’s” children wonder about but may not ask – “Did I cause it?”, “Can I catch it?”, Can I Cure it”, and “Who is going to take care of me?”
- Young children hear things literally. Recommend use of simple terms and direct information using words they understand.
- Defining death i.e. The body stops working and never works again. Does not feel any pain. (include the head when speaking about the body).
- Died from suicide definition: person did something to their body to make it die.
- Children experience grief in “chunks” – they “dip” in and out of grief. Allow children to be happy when they are happy even though someone has died.
- Feelings are always okay, but some behaviours are not.
- “Let it be…hard” no need to try and fix it. Be prepared to not have answers and wonder together.
For further resources, please also refer to the Bruce Peninsula Hospice Brochure: Helping Children and Teens Cope with Death
Pregnancy and Infant Loss
Bruce Peninsula Hospice volunteers and staff also attended a one-day educational workshop in Owen Sound hosted by the Sunnybrook Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network (PAIL) and sponsored by Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS). The experience of pregnancy and infant loss is often unspoken yet it is a factor in 1 in 4 pregnancies. The PAIL network has established resources and educational opportunities to raise awareness and understanding of this important topic and to help support grieving individuals and families. For further information visit: www.pailnetwork.ca.