Facing Death with Courage and Strength
For Death Awareness Week Scotland 2017 (8-14 May), we put the spotlight on our activities team who are helping children to prepare for the day that their brother or sister will die by giving them the skills to face it with courage and strength. Alison Blair, Activities Co-ordinator, tells us more:
“We took a group of children, aged 8 to 12 years, for an overnight stay to Winston Lodge last month. They all share a common bond - a sibling who has a life-shortening condition. It’s not always easy to talk about death and dying, but it’s really important so that we don’t feel alone with our feelings. Children are much more resilient than we think. They have a natural curiosity that we lose as we get older and become more inhibited. By talking about it, we can explore difficult feelings and emotions, and how to manage them.
“We watched the film ‘Inside Out’ on a big projection screen with duvets and pillows. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about feelings inside us, different personalities. The happy one is trying to make everything ok all the time. But sometimes you need to feel sad. It’s ok to feel sad. We don’t need to put a face on it. It’s ok to express our true feelings and the children really got that.
“We did activities to help them build resilience and identify coping mechanisms to use when they need them. During the lifeline exercise we looked at highs and lows we have experienced in life, and what helped us. The helping hands exercise allowed the children to identify who they would talk to when they feel upset and it showed them that they have a network of people they can turn to in difficult times. We also talked about things we can do to make ourselves feel better or that we are good at, such as music or playing football which gives them an inner strength and feelings of self-worth.
“It wasn’t all serious stuff – we had a laugh and talked about positive things too! The orienteering was brilliant fun and helped them to improve their communication and team building skills. They also had a go at archery and climbing high ropes – everyone did so well and pushed themselves out of their comfort ones.
“We’ve had great feedback. The children said that they loved the trip and were surprised about how open everyone was about their feelings. Importantly, they know that there are people to support them.
“For me, it was wonderful to see how open and caring the children were of each other. They have an emotional intelligence I wouldn’t have thought. So, I would say, don’t be afraid to talk to children about death and dying. They welcome the opportunity to talk about a subject that adults find difficult.”
If you are interested to find out more about how to speak to children about death and dying, the following websites are useful sources of information: