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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Dealing with death

Framing it as a natural part of life helps children grieve

When your child scrapes a knee, you're there with a kiss and a bandage. The baby cries and you rush in to soothe. When your teen calls for help, you're there to solve the situation.

Parents reflexively want to patch up problems that cause their children pain, but it's not always possible. When children experience for the first time the grief that comes when a death occurs, parents can find themselves at a loss to fix it.

design picsAlthough moms or dads can't be expected to make their children's sadness disappear, they can help them learn to navigate the experience of a loss, whether it's the death of a pet, friend or relative.

"We need to talk about death as being as natural as birth and life," said Theresa Huntley, a social worker for the hematology and oncology program at Children's Hospitals & Clinics in Minneapolis. "If we're giving kids chances to develop coping skills and we're helping them gain an understanding about death instead of avoiding it, they're going to be so much better equipped to deal with it later in their lives when it comes up again, which it will."


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