Compassionate Friends Bereavement Support Group

Area: Johannesburg, Gauteng
Phone: +27 (0)11 440 6322

Compassionate Friends Bereavement Support Group

My dear Friends,

How do you explain premature death to young children? How do you explain without frightening them? How do you explain what you yourself can’t understand? Comparisons with nature – an old tree dying, leaves falling, flowers turning to seed – and images of a safe, happy Heaven don’t always stop the questions and the fears. Children are sensitive to nuances and your sadness does not go by unnoticed and worried about.

Accidental deaths, illness, violent loss, drownings, possibly create the most anxiety. If my sibling, friend, cousin, aunt or uncle died like this, could it happen to me too? It’s an enormous concern and challenge to bereaved families to cope with this situation. I don’t have easy, or indeed any, answers. Each of you with your own beliefs and values, your knowledge of your children and grandchildren, and your acute sensitivity to their needs, will find some way to
approach the problem. It’s daunting and honestly there will be some stumbling as you search for what is best.

However intimidating that realization is, it’s far better to communicate as openly as possible as you try to answer all those troubling questions. TCF has books, some written specifically for children, others to guide adults, that could assist you.

There’s one aspect of this quagmire that’s even harder perhaps to tackle – suicide. How do you talk about depression, differentiate to young, inexperienced minds between feeling sad and despair, remove stigma without those side-effects too awful to contemplate. It’s an horrendous task and I am awed by those who meet it. Speaking to someone who has faced the dilemma and done so magnificently, I learnt the importance of spelling out that mental illness is a sickness, often incurable and one that overwhelms the victims. You who have an inkling of the
desperation of these sad boys and girls know the hurt of ignorance and prejudice. You reject those judgmental views and it becomes your duty to teach youngsters about the nature of depression which is like a cancer of the mind and the soul, to remove the superstitions and stigmas, and to explore the ways of extending tenderness and compassion to the sufferers. Of course it’s very important to inform children of the many resources available that help to prevent further tragedies.

If this is one of your many burdens, may you be able to manage it with the same courage and strength you are bringing to every aspect of your mourning.

Much love,


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