Sunday, 23 January 2011

What Shall We Tell The Children?

I have been shouting at the Radio lots recently – mostly at politicians, but also at Ambridge as they have been making Nigel’s funeral arrangements.


I know it is all fictional, but when Lizzie was insisting that the twins would not go to their Dad’s funeral, I was yelling “Take them! Take them!”

I believe it is really important that children do not feel excluded when there is a death in the family.

[In the end, she listened to her wise old Mum, Jill, and they all went!]

But Ambridge is fictional – Death In Real Life Is Much Harder

Last Spring, one of my blogfriends had mentioned how hard it was to explain the Crucifixion and Easter story to her two little boys, and so I wrote them a special letter [here]


I was incredibly sorry when I heard that my friend’s Mum had died, quite unexpectedly, on Christmas Eve. It was a real shock for everyone, and I knew she was finding it hard to balance her own grief with the need to explain things to the boys.

So I sent my friend some ideas about children and bereavement – and I also wrote a special letter just for the boys. She said that they ‘adored’ having that letter just for themselves, and she’d shared it on her blog too.

I know that children are often concerned that Gran is still in pain, and that being in a coffin or being cremated will hurt her.

I suggested that she trim the boys’ fingernails, or clips their hair – and show them that it doesn’t hurt – or only hurts a tiny bit – but then those clippings are not needed any more, and whatever you do to them cannot hurt you. So you can actually burn the hair and nails in a saucer, or bury them in the ground, and you won’t feel any pain, because they are no longer part of you. In the same way after death, we no longer need our earthly bodies and whatever happens to them cannot hurt us.


My friend said they each clipped a bit of hair and buried it in a box – and that helped them understand things a bit more, and that they were also starting to prepare “Memory Books”

Here is the letter I sent the boys [feel free to use it if you need to]

I wanted to write you a letter to say how much I have been thinking of your family in the past few days. It must have been a very strange time for you – partly celebrating all the Christmassy stuff, and partly being very sad because you have lost your Grandma. I know you have both been really good boys, and so helpful to your Mum when she has felt especially sad.

It is a long time ago since my big daughters were little girls and they lost their Gran. It was hard because I kept crying when they didn’t expect it, and sometimes they wanted to play and I was a bit grumpy. But we had lots of cuddles and lots of happy memories. I think it is a good idea if you feel sad to get a little book and write things down or draw some pictures – some of the things you remember about the good times.

I expect some people will tell you to be very brave because your Gran would want you to keep on with your life, and enjoying things – and that is true. But never forget, there are times when it is OK to not feel brave, and to need a cry and a cuddle. And that is true however old you are.

I wrote to you last Easter, and I believe that Easter is when we remember that Jesus said “Death is beaten forever and when we die we can live in Heaven and be happy forever”

Your Gran’s body was old and tired and not working very well – one of my children reminded me when their Gran died that now she would have a new body and would be able to dance in Heaven. The Bible says there is a big party going on up there – do you think all the Grans are dancing together and giggling about the silly things we are doing? I hope so.

Your Mum is my friend and I would like to come and hug her but we live miles away – so will you please give her a big hug from me?

You are in my prayers – lots and lots of love Angela

grave flowers

A number of my friends are coping with bereavement right now – and my heart goes out to them – especially when they are having to answer the hard questions of their little ones.

Jesus said “Blessed are those that mourn for they shall be comforted”  Don’t forget that we are called to be involved in that comforting- whether it is through hugs, cups of tea, cards, letters or whatever.


Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life”


  1. Hi Angela, waht a lovely post, it is hard when you have small children to explain that they will not see that person again, I know when my Dad died the kids were 4 and 5 and they asked lots of questions, I did try to answer as honestly as I possibly could and I put a Photo of their grandad in a prominent position and every morning when they came downstairs they kissed him and then they felt better.
    I asked them once if they remembered any of it and yes! they did. Love Jillx

  2. Brilliant letter! I have used 'Waterbugs and Dragonflies' and 'Badgers Parting Gifts' with children. Michael Rosens 'Sad' book is also one some people find helpful.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. I have to say that it has been really central to the boys grieving process for them to go to the church service and then at a later date to the grave. Both the boys are Happy that Grandma is at peace and that her body can not feel pain (your tip was excellent). It is hard, but in caring for my children, I am caring for myself. Thank you dear kind and wise friend

  4. Angela, what a wonderful thing you did for those two little boys. It's great that you were able to help your friend explain death in a way that little ones would understand.

  5. It is a wonderful gift to be able to comfort.
    Thank you for sharing your ideas.
    Jane x

  6. That is a very beautiful letter Angela, and one that will remian in those childrens' minds for many years.

  7. I'm glad Willows is over if you can now go back to teaching me real things. Deep, eternal, hidden in marrow things.

  8. Thanks, everyone for your kind comments. I am glad that the letter has proved such a help


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