August 9, 2013

What do we tell the children about death and dying?

Many of us have had to explain death and dying to a child. If we are fortunate, the first time might be when the goldfish dies. But, as recently happened at our church, we have to talk about why their friend's daddy died. Face it, clergy kids are around death a lot. Here is a new book that will help.

What Do We Tell the Children? Talking to Kids about Death and Dying
(ISBN 978-1-4267-6049-5)

 One out of seven children will lose a parent before they are 20. The statistics are sobering, but they also call for preparedness. However, adults are often at a loss when dealing with a grieving child. Talking to adults about death and grief is difficult; it's all the more challenging to talk to children and teens. The stakes are high: grieving children are high-risk for substance abuse, promiscuity, depression, isolation, and suicide. Yet, despite this, most of these kids grow-up to be normal or exceptional adults. But their chance to become healthy adults increases with the support of a loving community. Supporting grieving children requires open-communication and patience. Rather than avoid all conversations on death or pretend like it never happened, normalizing grief and offering support requires us to be in-tune with kids through dialogue as they grapple with questions of “how” and “why.” When listening to children in grief, we often have to embrace the mystery, offer love and compassion, and stick with the basics.

Author: Joseph M. Primo is Executive Director of Good Grief, Inc. in Morristown and Princeton, New Jersey, and President of The National Alliance for Grieving Children. A graduate of Yale Divinity School and a former hospice chaplain, Primo is an author and blogger for the New Jersey Star-Ledger. He has appeared on CNN and FOX as a grief advocate.

"The stories Primo tells are compelling and filled with many teachable moments about life and death. The book is encouraging for parents and others fearful of "doing it wrong" or (scarier still!) "having already done it wrong!" A must read for anyone caring for the grieving."  
̶ Kate Braestrup, New York Times Best-Selling Author of Here If You Need Me

"This wonderfully sensitive book is full of illustrative stories and gentle wisdom."
 ̶ Kenneth J. Doka, The College of New Rochelle; Senior Consultant, The Hospice Foundation of America 

"As a practicing physician and teacher, I recommend What Do We Tell the Children?"
̶ Scott Long, Yale University School of Medicine and Physician at The Connecticut Hospice

"This book is about the power of love and about overcoming our own anxiety, so that we can offer grieving children our compassionate presence and steady support as they create meaning in their own way and at their own pace.   
̶ Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary."

"Joseph Primo’s book should be given to every military household who has lost someone."
̶ Michael Anthony, Iraq War veteran and author of Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq 

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