Talking to Kids About Death and Dying

A Community that Grieves Together Heals Together

Personally, I don’t like the word “heals.” It assumes that something is broken. Grief is not brokenness that can be fixed or glued back together. It is much more of an ever-evolving fraying of a life or community that requires a lot of attention in order to weave the many parts back together. The weave will look different and that depends on a lot of internal and external variables.

The internal depends on receiving support, feeling understood by others, having the opportunity to tell one’s story, process feelings, allow the narrative to evolve, invest in the future, and rearrange one’s relationship with the person who died.

Our external needs depend on people. The bereaved are dependent on others. That’s powerful.

So, if there is that sort of dependency (and to be clear that could involve depending on people to leave them alone and stop nagging) then how are we to confront the fact that most people feel isolated and abandoned after death?

Insert crisis.

Yes, in order to start addressing this serious issue we need to start talking about death. But then what? While the dialogue is huge and will change how we live and interact with each other, our communities need to transform how we behave around death and prepare for it. We need to shift expectations. We need to shift lifestyles so that we can care for each other in the office, on the streets, at the grocery store, on the soccer field, and in the living room.

This isn’t “mushy” or “soft” stuff for people who can’t “deal with life,” as I’ve heard people say before. This is about the dirty, messiness that is life. This is grit. The mushy stuff is using metaphors and clichés to downplay the grit, pretending that people pass away instead of die and that every death is part of a plan or a purpose. That’s mushy and it isn’t real and it doesn’t speak to the human experience.

A community that changes how it functions so that people are cared for and can move from pain to growth, well that’s the work of champions.