Talking to Children About Death: Healing and Conversation

Steve Allen quote | Dianna Bonny Photography

Last week I had the opportunity to share my story with a wonderful group of people who graciously allowed me to unfurl before them. I really enjoy this kind of interaction with small groups. Answering questions forces me to dig deeper into what I have learned and how it might apply to the others dealing with loss. It is very life affirming and soul healing.

One thing that came up, and seems to come up a lot, is the challenge of speaking with children about death. How do we, as parents, open the door to this very uncomfortable topic, and then keep a dialogue going that is in the best interest of the child? Although suicide presents a different kind of extremely difficult conversation, death, in general, is not our strong suit.

Despite it being a natural part of life, as inevitable as the sun rising and setting, death seems to be largely unaddressed in our culture. It happens behind closed doors, in darkened rooms or hospitals, away from society at large. When it arrives on your doorstep, it is usually ushered away in a dark bag and windowless vehicle.

I believe we do a great disservice to ourselves by pretending that death might not happen to us, and we further complicate the burden by not openly honoring it when it inevitably passes through our lives.

A young woman who’s husband was killed in the line of police duty asked me how to speak to her young children who were too young to understand what happened at the time of his death. A few years later, she is trying to incorporate the loss into their young lives in a healthy way.

I can only draw upon my experience with my own children. When I asked them what worked as they made their way through the complex post-suicide landscape, they said it was the ability to talk openly about all their feelings that yielded the greatest benefit.

Many people I have spoken to who suffered tragic loss at a young age felt an ever greater sense of disconnection because they were not allowed to explore their feelings openly. There was an unspoken expectation to put all of those painful emotions in a kind of vault and lock the door.

With nowhere to go, emotions that are trapped and ignored become a cesspool rotting us from the inside out.

Another woman came up to me and said, “But how? I mean how do you get the words out of your mouth? I find the very idea of discussing death with my kids incredibly uncomfortable.”

I believe the very essence of healing is about creating movement. When we breathe deeply, re-think our circumstances, quiet our minds, practice letting go of the past and engage in meaningful conversations, we are moving energy and setting the stage for healing.

When we are assaulted by a traumatic event like suicide, the emotions that rush in are dense and heavy: sadness, despair, grief, depression. They all have their place in the healing process, but, ultimately, they need to be allowed to move through us.

Conversation can be a part of creating this movement, whereas silence will leave us forever frozen in time. There is no doubt that getting the words out of our mouths can be scary, but some of the scariest experiences in life are the ones that transport us from where we are to where we want to be.

Think of conversation as the fluid motion you need to flush out the potential cesspool of untended emotions that can gather within the tender vessel of your child’s emotional body. This way, they can swim in a healthy current of love, curiosity and exploration.

Sending fluid molecules for movement and conversation your way.


Who is Dianna Bonny?

Hi, my name is Dianna Bonny. It’s my mission to candidly share my journey with you. For me, it’s all about the healing: to create a radiant healing energy for others who have befallen a similar fate. Together, we can forge beautiful lives of belonging and connection. Thanks for joining me today! I look forward to hearing from you.

  2 comments for “Talking to Children About Death: Healing and Conversation

  1. Suzani
    June 23, 2014 at 8:28 am

    I was just 20 when my young brother, Jeff , died. I remember sitting at the dinner table with my parents and even younger sibling feeling desperate for things to be ok.. I knew that if I were to mention Jeff the tears would well up in my mothers eyes and that was just too excruciating to watchl! By remaining silent I feltt I could control her pain and in turn ease my own. Today she is 80 and 40 years later those tears still come. We have done a lot of healing BUT Our family truth is it still continues to be the saddest thing we’ve ever known. We allow the tears to come now when and if they need to. Most times we wind up laughing afterwards because the release allows room for joy and rememberance and thankfulness. The mountain of sadness gets worn down a bit more each time. We have found the wisdom of moving with Grace.

    • Dianna Bonny
      June 23, 2014 at 11:59 am

      Suzani: Thank you for sharing this personal story. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a sibling at a young age, especially back then when most tragedies were never spoken of. By using the word, conversation, I suppose I should have included laughing and crying. What I really meant was creating space for that exploration. How lovely that you are now able to cry openly and that your pain is evolving. Beautiful comment. love and peace, xo

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