Many times, in Hospice care, there are children who are family members associated with the dying patient. Often, we are asked of the best ways in which to share the experience with children. This quarter’s article is meant to help care for children who are grieving. It is our hope you find the information helpful.

When first talking to a child: 
  • Be prompt. Tell your child about the death or impending death at the earliest possible time. S/he should hear about it from a trusted adult first, rather than overhearing it. If possible, find a quiet, familiar place to talk.

  • Be honest and direct. Tell the truth using simple, brief words that your child will understand.

  • Be a good listener. Let your child know that you really care about how s/he feels right now. Gently ask your child what s/he understands about death and remind him/ her that it is alright to talk about death and the loved one who died. 

  • Be accurate. Avoid euphemisms such as “we lost her last night,” “he went to sleep yesterday and won’t wake up,” “God wanted an angel,” “she went to heaven,” etc. Use the correct terms such as “died” and “dead.” Let your child know that death is not like sleeping or going on a trip and that it is a natural process. This can make your child scared that anyone who goes to sleep or takes a trip will die.

  • Be patient. Do not rush this conversation - let your child know that s/he can ask you any question. Do not be afraid to tell your child if you do not have an answer to a question – this will help your child feel more comfortable with not knowing all the answers, too. Your child may ask the same questions over and over. 

  • Be sensitive. If your child does not want to talk at this point, do not force it. In fact, your child may even want to go play after hearing the news of the death. This is normal. Assure your child that you are willing to listen when s/he feels like talking. Accept your child’s response to this news and avoid being judgmental about how your child “should” be responding.

  • Be together. Use physical touch such as hugs or holding hands to communicate your support. At the same time, respect your child’s need to be alone, for a while, if s/he desires it.

  • Be yourself. Do not be afraid to show your own tears and sad feelings, explaining to your child that expressing feelings can help people get through times like this. You may want a close family member or friend with you to help with your child’s questions.

As the days and months pass: 
  • Be inclusive. If your child desires to attend the funeral or memorial service, then do permit it. A child should never be forced to attend or not attend or made to feel guilty for his/her choice. Prepare your child before the service, by describing what s/he can expect to see (clergy or funeral directors can help you with this). Your child may want to put a drawing, letter or other remembrance in the casket.

  • Be nurturing. Be aware of increased need for sleep, exercise (usually helps when dealing with strong feelings), and nutrition. The same goes for adults who are caring for this child!

  • Be creative. Use children’s books on death and grief to help address a child’s questions about death and his/her own feelings. Give your child opportunities to draw, work with clay or write stories to express feelings which may be difficult to put into words.

  • Be playful. Take opportunities to have some fun. No one can tolerate being sad or quiet constantly and children need plenty of time for play. Laughing and remembering good times are very appropriate ways to honor the one who has died. This will also help in grief’s healing process.

  • Be consistent. Keep routine, structure, and discipline as normal as possible. Many children have some temporary behavioral regression (bedwetting, temper tantrums, thumb-sucking, etc.), so patience must be combined with consistency. 

  • Be reassuring. Remind your child that there are capable, loving adults (family, teachers, friends) who will continue to care for him/ her. Children are often afraid of a caregiver dying or of dying themselves. Also, remind your child that nothing s/he did or said caused the loved one to die. Your family’s religious faith system may be helpful to you in this area, but make sure your child understands what you are saying (“being taken to heaven by angels” may be a frightening thought to a small child). 

  • Be loving. Continue to listen, explain, and support. Spend time with your child and respect his/her way of coping with grief. Above all, a grieving child needs to be sure of the love of trusted caregivers. 

  • Be hopeful. Believe in your child’s ability to heal and grow stronger for having been through such a painful situation. Expect that anniversary dates will be difficult and that your child will continue to experience sadness from time to time. At the same time, encourage your child to continue to move on with life in a healthy way.

VNA Hospice Bereavement services are available to all family members. If you know of a child that is having difficulty, please feel free to reach out to your Bereavement Coordinator for guidance and resources, they will be glad to help!
Experiencing Grief
By Matt Wadsworth, LMSW
Not long ago, I visited with a woman whose loved one died while on our hospice service. She talked, wept and laughed, recounting their lives together. As she described her journey and challenged me with her questions, I listened and learned from her about the grief experience. The following are a few of the questions we discussed.

What is the grief experience? 

Grief is the natural and normal response to loss. Our word bereaved actually means “to be torn apart.” We can think of a person’s life as a thread. When two people love each other, their lives become intertwined, creating a sort of tapestry together. When one of them dies, that thread is not carefully loosened and untangled from the other, but torn away. The survivor is left with a ragged wound. Grief is the healing of that wound.

What is the most difficult part of the grief process?

Often, people feel a frightening loss of control. Intense “grief waves” come without warning and can be incapacitating. We may forget things, be unable to concentrate, unexpectedly burst into tears, hear or see the deceased, lose our appetite, become sleep deprived, experience any number of things that make us feel like we are losing our minds. Well-meaning individuals who tell us it’s time to move on may only intensify these unexpected waves of grief.

Does anything help?

Three things come to mind. First, perspective — try to find some accurate information about the grief process, a good book (see our recommendations), a grief support group or a counseling professional. Usually, this will affirm and validate the bereaved’s experience as normal, which can be very comforting. 

Second, experience and express your feelings. In the movie, The Prince of Tides, a counselor encourages a man to express his pain about the death of his brother.

When the man asks, “Why? It won’t bring him back,” the counselor replies, “No, but it will bring you back.” Expressing our feelings helps diminish their intensity and moves us through the grief process.

Third, identify “safe” people. It’s been said, “Grief shared is grief diminished.” A few months after the death of his wife, one man told me he had not experienced any good days yet, but had enjoyed some good moments. The good moments happened with friends he made at a grief support group. Try to identify one or two people who will listen and try to understand what you’re experiencing.

What does healing from grief look like?

Through remembering, feeling our emotions and expressing our pain while receiving meaningful support from others, we learn day by day to live without our loved one. The waves of grief will still occur but, in time, not so frequently, they become more manageable. We never forget, but we do become reconciled to our loss. We can choose to reinvest in life again, realizing our loved one’s life and death has changed us forever.
Visiting Nurse Association Locations
VNA Headquarters & Dallas Branch
1420 W. Mockingbird Lane, Suite 700
Dallas, TX 75247
(214) 689-0000
Sue Rafferty (214) 689-2922
Counties Served: Dallas and Tarrant
Collin Branch
7290 Virginia Parkway, Suite 2300
McKinney, Texas 75071
(972) 562-0140
Susan Bryan (972) 562-0140
Counties Served: Collin, Fannin and Grayson
East Texas Branch
874 Ed Hall Drive, Suite 105
Kaufman, TX 75142
(972) 962-7500
Kevin Moore (972) 962-7500
Counties Served: Ellis, Henderson, Hunt, Kaufman, Rockwall & Van Zandt with parts of Johnson and Navarro
VNA Ann’s Haven
2800 Shoreline Dr., Suite 250
Denton, TX 76210
(940) 349-5900
Kimberly Mackay-Pearson (940) 349-5900
Counties Served: Denton, Tarrant, Wise and parts of Cooke
VNA Grief Care Calendar for Winter 2021
VNA bereavement events provide an opportunity for bereaved individuals to meet with others who understand loss and learn more about helping themselves. We will resume our in-person grief events when our medical staff deems it safe to do so. We are holding some on-line Zoom Grief Groups. Please reach out to your Bereavement Coordinator for more information or support.

To inquire or register, contact the branch listed on the back of this newsletter.
Due to COVID restrictions – all Events are currently offered on the Zoom platform
Dallas County
All of the groups are currently the Zoom platform

Lunchtime Grief Support
4th Thursdays, April 22, May 27 and June 24
Noon to 1:00 p.m.

Sharing the Journey: Coping With Grief
6 Week group – Tuesdays
Starting April 13 to May 18
1:00p.m. to 2:30p.m.

Contact Sue Rafferty to sign up and get the zoom link, (972) 215-6128 or
Denton County
All of the groups are currently the Zoom platform

Lunchtime Grief Support
2nd Tuesdays, April 13, May 11 and June 8
Noon to 1:00 p.m.

Grieving Hearts (loss a significant other)
Tuesdays, April 27, May 25 and June 22
1:00p.m. – 2:00p.m

Care Givers Get Together (those caring for another)
3rd Wednesdays, April 21, May 19 and June 16, 5:30p.m. – 6:30p.m.

Bereavement Support Group (open to anyone)
2nd Wednesdays, April 14, May 12 and June 9,1:00p.m – 2:00p.m.

Contact Kim Mackay-Pearson to sign up and get the zoom link, (214) 263-1916 or
Collin County
All of the groups are currently the Zoom platform

Lunchtime Grief Support
4th Tuesdays, April, 27, May 25 (not meeting in June) Noon to 1:00 p.m.

Grieving Hearts Group (loss of spouse)
2nd Tuesdays, April 13, May 11, and June 8
10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Contact Susan Bryan to sign up and get zoom link, (214) 733-5543 or
Kaufman County
No events planned at this time. Please see
information about Zoom grief groups being held in Dallas, Denton and Collin that you are welcome to attend.

Contact Kevin Moore for information in the Kaufman area (972) 962-7500 or
Grief Resources for Spring 2021
VNA bereavement events provide an opportunity for bereaved individuals to meet with others who understand loss and learn more about helping themselves. We will resume our in-person grief events when our medical staff deems it safe to do so. We are holding some on-line Zoom Grief Groups. Please reach out to your Bereavement Coordinator for more information or support.

Dallas: Sue Rafferty – 214-689-2922 |
Collin: Susan Bryan – 214-733-5543 |
Denton: Kimberly Mackay-Pearson – 214-263-1916 |
Kaufman: Kevin Moore – 972-962-7500 |
Online Grief Support Groups – A local faith-based organization that is currently holding online grief meetings. – A faith-based grief program that uses video lessons and discussion groups. Many of its groups are being done online; check their website to find ones near you. – Dallas organization for widows that holds support meetings online.
Helpful Websites for Loss and Grief – Listing of private practice counselors and therapists in your area who specialize in grief and loss (VNA doesn’t endorse these, but is only sharing this website info if it is helpful to you) – Website with articles, blog, resource center, and an “ask Dr. Robert Niemeyer” column, with space for writing private conversations to loved ones and archiving memories – Links to books and articles by grief counselor and educator Alan Wolfelt, PhD. – Website with videos and info from grief expert and educator Dr. David Kessler. – A place for grief tools, where people can find the grief resources they need.
Includes links to articles, videos, support group finder. – Website about many aspects of coping with grief – Information and self-help resources for widows and widowers, discussion boards. – Website with extensive quotes/poems section, articles on loss and pet loss, discussion groups. – Social support network providing resources and support for coping with grief. – Online resource center that includes community forums and articles, podcasts, and videos on a wide variety of grief-related topics. (has Spanish resources) – Grief articles in English and Spanish. – Online support groups, articles, blogs, resources, and more. – Forums for different kinds of losses and grief issues. – Extensive website about grief and loss with many links to grief-related articles.