Yesterday I shared my thoughts on using literature, television, and film to open up conversations about children’s experiences with grief. Today I am going to continue that theme, but with a more real subject matter.
We are living in a somewhat tragedy obsessed society. For example, a few weeks ago pop singer Whitney Houston died and the news of this death was everywhere. The news had live footage of where Ms. Houston’s body had been found with a crawl of people’s text messages reacting to her death across the bottom. Newspapers had photographs of her plastered on the front page. Even the bar that I was in made an announcement of Whitney’s death and played only songs by her for the rest of the night.
Comparisons were made across the board to other untimely deaths of famous individuals such as Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, or Princess Diana. The cases were all similar, individuals who have achieved wealth, have families, and died tragically young because of various vices.
Another interesting thing these individuals have in common, their memorial services were televised.
Princess Diana died a few months after my father died. I remember watching her funeral and seeing that her two sons had written letters to their mother and placed them on her casket. I was saddened by the image of another child grieving the loss of a mother, and angry with myself for not thinking to do this for my father.
Sharing the death of any public figure with a child is a very personal decision. However, one should keep in mind that children will often hear some details about the death in school or through friends. It is important to remember that these images can be triggers for some children.
Though we often cannot control how much of a public death children see, we can use these stories to open up conversations with children about the funeral of their loved one, what they would have done differently, or what feelings are brought up by this new death. Even asking children how they think the loved ones of the person who died are feeling can empower a grieving child to openly share and express their feelings.
As for my eight-year-old self who was angry for not thinking to write a letter to her father to put in his casket. I later wrote that letter, and many more but in a fit of teenage rage I tore them all up and threw the pieces away. I remember feeling so ashamed of writing to a dead person that I wanted to hide all the evidence. The moral of this story, encourage children to keep a bond with their loved ones, and also lock these precious bonds away so they are safe from teenage rage.
- Grief In the Media Spot Light (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- Grief Theories (namasteconsultinginc.com
- Liz Hendrickson – I”ve Been There Too Blog Post
- Honoring Your Journey – Blog Talk Radio Spot with Young Grief Professional Liz Hendrickson