As adults, we understand death is an inevitable and natural part of life. Obviously, it doesn't make dealing with it any easier, but when your family loses someone integral and important, a person who has been in your childrens lives for their whole lives, it doesn't seem so natural anymore. Telling your children that their loved one they adore is dead has got to be one of the most gut wrenching and awful things you have to do as a parent.
Explaining there are no more chances to chat, cuddle, learn from that person or just phone them up to see how they're doing feels wrong in every way. Death feels even more unfair when you have to explain it to a child.
Their ability to live in the moment is obviously a wonderful gift but perhaps also a clever coping mechanism for a child faced with the reality of mortality. If you could get a little respite from grief in the wonder of a box full of toys, building a fort from cushions and duvets or bashing some pots and pans together, wouldn't you?
It's when that respite is gone and they panic because you're popping out to buy bread or one of you feels unwell and they stay awake to check on you every so often, just in case. It's those things that make it all harder.
The thing about grief is that it isn't just one emotion or reaction. It's an ongoing process filled with sadness, confusion, fear, anger and emptiness. It's huge to deal with as a rational adult, never mind as a child. The experts say be honest and clear, tell the truth in an age appropriate manner and don't say anything that could cause confusion. Say the person has died, not passed away because the word died is clearer and doesn't leave a possibility of return. However, in our house, electronics die and get recharged on the kitchen counter, so that advice didn't really help.
When something bad happens to your family, you feel out of control and in some sense a liar to your children. You promise them everything is fine, everyone is fine and you will never leave them. As a parent, you feel bullet proof, nothing and no one will every take you away from your kids. One day though, you will be taken from them and they will need everything you can give them now while you're here to help them learn to live without you, because the worst thing about grief is, it never goes away.