By Jessica Del Llano
I was 17 when I lost my first grandparent – my grandfather. There were extended family and friends of the family who passed away during my youth, but never someone as close to me as a grandparent. At 17, I was so unprepared emotionally to deal with that kind of loss, and frankly, it never got easier. It was 7 years before I lost another grandparent. It became about the huge life events they missed like my wedding, and getting to meet their great-granddaughter. Their absence was especially felt during those special times. I never processed the death of a grandparent as a child. It was always from a young adult or adult’s perspective.
I have to admit I was very hesitant about approaching the subject of death with my 2-year-old daughter, Sara. She was aware Papa was in the hospital, but I found myself without the right words to explain that he was gone.
My own earliest memory is from age 3, so I am sad Sara may not have many, if any, memories of her Papa. We can tell her stories, we can show her pictures, but it’s just not the same. I was blessed with 17 years having all four of my grandparents, and I’m lucky to still have my Nana with us today.
Someone recently shared the story “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia with me, and it’s a wonderful book that puts death in a perspective children can understand. If you haven’t read it before, it’s worth it, no matter how old you are. I think that’s my best bet for approaching this with Sara right now, and I hope it helps her understand what happened on some level, though it may take until she’s older before she really grasps what she has lost.
What’s your experience discussing death with your children?