When we lose a loved one it is such a terribly hard time, especially a sudden untimely loss, someone you didn't expect to be taken so soon, or it would seem before their time. During these dark sad times we can often be consumed by grief and such mixed emotions that we cannot focus beyond what we are feeling and that is perfectly understandable and completely fine. But what happens when there are children in the family, children that are old enough to understand and comprehend what has happened, although they may not have the emotional maturity to deal with the situation and emotions that accompany such a loss. It is so difficult to find the balance of how much to expose them to with wanting to protect them.
We have had two family bereavements in the last year and they have had varying impacts on the children. The first being very sudden and has totally turned our lives upside down and affected most every aspect of our lives, this we found hard to know how to manage with the children as because it affects our day to day lives we found it was and still can be the focus of most conversations but we didn't want them to continually see upset and worry. We agreed early on to be honest and open about as much as we could to help them understand the situation, we allowed time for them to ask questions and process the answers we gave. We felt strongly not to hide our sadness although we didn't want them to witness our moments of complete devastation. They understand the basic reasons and the course of proceedings that followed and I do think It really helped that they felt they could ask questions and it wasn't a wall of silence when they were around. They saw it is ok to show the emotional pain you feel and that we help and support each other, a huge lesson in compassion and empathy.
When we experienced our second loss it was slightly less unexpected but still a person that they had come to know as an important part of the family. Although it is easier to explain loss from what they consider to be through old age and a loss they can make sense of in a way because they see it as this is how things happen it really doesn't make the loss any easier or more bearable. We did find though they were much more understanding, sympathetic and expectant of the emotions that they were witnessing for the second time in a short time frame.
Even now I still feel quite emotional when they show such compassion and recognition of the loss and gaps left in our lives, it makes me proud to see the care and love they offer and how such sadness and loss can create and teach empathy and compassion. I would like to think that how we have dealt with these losses has built their characters and instilled morals they will carry through their lives and have the ability to show, understand and accept the emotional rollercoaster that is life and loss.