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Teach our Children Well – The Need to Teach our Children to Grieve

“…the past is just a goodbye.  Teach your children well” is the chorus of one of my favorite Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young songs, “Teach Your Children Well.”  Yes, I know that dates me terribly even though I’m proud of growing up in that world-changing era.

As a grandparent now, I still love listening to those ballads and rock anthems.  As I listen to the words more closely now, I am often surprised by the spirituality and love in the songs.  Many dealing with loss and death.  The lyrics to “Teach Your Children Well” voices teaching the children of our dreams before we die.  And implores those of tender years to teach your elders and help them seek the truth before they die.

Truth is hard. Almost as hard as grieving. And for children, the death of a loved one is not something they are equipped to manage through on their own.  In We Lost Her the book I recently published on my family’s grief journey after my Mom’s tragic death in 1970, my six siblings and I were all children, struggling to make sense of it all.  And, not doing very well in our struggle. We needed help. We needed someone to teach us to grieve. To let us know our sadness was normal and that to let our tears flow was ok.  To hug and to hold us. Our Dad was just too deep in his own grief to help us. We were children and I think he assumed a resilience in us that was not there, that children didn’t grieve the way adults do. He was wrong. We describe it this way in the book on page 173:

“The seven of us siblings, while we had each other and tried to help each other through, could not be enough for one another.  We each felt alone in our grief in the absence of Dad or some caring adult to help us cope.  As adults, we typically have matured enough to know that death is part of life, part of the bargain in “dust to dust.”  As children, we were just not able to comprehend this yet.  It’s important to recognize that children – and teenagers are children too – need help, like they do with most things, to learn how to grieve.”

Heartlinks Grief Center offers resources that help parents learn how to help their children, how to nurture, to teach them to grieve.  Diana Cuddeback, Heartlinks Director advises, “What you don’t tell kids about the death of a loved one they will create in their own story – so, you have to explain or their creation will be worse than the reality.”   She related the story of a little girl whose father had died of stomach cancer.  The mother didn’t provide her the details, thinking she was protecting her from the painful truth.  In the absence of knowing, the little girl’s reality became that when she got a stomach ache she would die, too.

The “5 Things to Do to Support Kids During Turbulent Times” can be found on the Heartlinks website and is filled with comforting actions to help teach our children to grieve. It is at the link below:

I am guessing you know parents and grandparents of grieving children that need help in teaching them to grieve. Your mission this week, dear readers, is to get those that need help to reach out for it – at Heartlinks or elsewhere – so they can teach their children well one of life’s hardest and most important lessons.

Be Blessed,


“We Grow Stronger Together”

Ellen Krohne, author of We Lost Her, available on

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