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Your Sister Is Sleeping
Written by Clara Hinton   |  Sep 26, 2001
When the death of a child occurs within a family, the family is often hard pressed to find either the strength or the words to talk to their living children about what has happened. Grief is all consuming, and often parents are so grief stricken themselves that they find it almost impossible to talk about the death. The grief is easier to deal with by momentarily pushing it to the back burner.

Sooner or later, though, the difficult issue of death must be confronted. Children want to know what happened to their brother or sister. And, children need to know what happened, and to have it explained to them on a level they can understand. Answers to their questions are necessary in order for them to move on in their journey of grief.

Well meaning parents often say, "Your sister is sleeping", rather than say, "Your sister has died." Besides sounding more kind, it is a lot easier to say the word "sleep" than to use the word "death". Death sounds so harsh, and much too grown up for children to comprehend.

It can be terribly frightening for a young child to hear the explanation of their sibling sleeping as a means of buffering the pain of telling them that their brother or sister has died. What might happen is something we don't often think about. Young children can misinterpret the explanation of sleeping as being synonymous with death. That simple word can begin a deep cycle of fear in the mind of a child.

Many children have become afraid to fall asleep after the death of a grandparent or sibling because they think that they will fall asleep and never wake up again. Your children need to hear the truth explained in age appropriate language. Death, when explained properly, is not something that is terrible and frightening.

Before telling your children what happened about the stillbirth, car accident, or illness that claimed the life of a brother or sister, ask if they know what happened. Then, answer their questions in a brief, simple way. You do not have to give graphic details. Remember-talk on a child's level of understanding.

Try to remain calm while talking to your children. Reassure them that you love them and that you are still a family. Encourage your children to talk to you anytime they feel afraid or have questions concerning the death of their sibling.

Losing a child is a tough time for everyone! Feelings of grief can be very scary for younger children. Your children need you now more than ever. By openly communicating following the death of a child in your family, you've already taken a big step towards healing.
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