Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Question of Death

I have a situation fast approaching that I have not dealt with before. A close family member is succumbing to cancer and there will be a funeral in about a week. I will need to talk about the death and funeral with both my kids. This will be their first experience with both that they will be able to remember.

My daughter, who is very sensitive, will be hearing about a cancer-related death of a close family member for the second time in about a month. I have worries that this will be a little hard for her to take it in stride.

This will be my first attempt at talking about death with James, and I am not sure how much he will be able to process or how to tackle it. Although James is 7, he has difficulties with abstracts. We are used to seeing this person at big family events, but James might not even know who we are talking about.

About three weeks back, however, I twice brought both kids with me, while this person who means so much to me was still able to enjoy visitors. He has no children to carry his memories; I want my children to remember him. In fact, when I asked him what I could do for him, he specifically asked to be remembered and not forgotten. Oh my yes. There are stories, memories and lots of living in our family, and he's been a part of so much of it.

So I am now so very glad I was able to have the chance to have the kids with me so they could specifically remember him as a person. An important, gentle, loving member of our family.

However, because of these trips, James (as he sometimes does) has fixated on this person, asking where he is and can we go and see him again. I am sure he will be doing this at the funeral. So I anticipate I will be taking him out of the church if he starts asking loudly. I am trying to organize a kind of social story about funerals -- what they are and how to act at one.

I know this will be difficult, but death and funerals are a part of life and living. I think the more the children are included in big family events and shown how to care, share, and show respect, the better they will be prepared for life. That does not mean that I cannot do a little preparation.

Does anyone out there have any tips about talking with an ASD child about death and funerals?

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