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Trials of a SN Mom: Explaining the concept of death

Updated: May 7, 2018

The issue of death is not comfortable for most adults, most especially me.  I grew up going to church, I attended CCD and I did all the things a good Catholic should do.  Despite the training I still grapple with life and death and what it all means.  I think that is normal.   Explaining it all to your child is difficult.  Explaining to your child who has a developmental disability, the task is, well, defeating.  Our first attempt began when our extended family's golden retrievers both passed (one year apart).  These dogs were part of our world at the family lake house.  They would bounce around the lake through all of our yards, swimming with the kids, serving as their companion day and night.  When my son thought of the lake house he thought of the dogs.  At the start of the next season, our son asked where the dogs were.  We explained that they are up in the sky with the angels.  Perplexed, he just looked at the sky, shrugged, and asked "are they coming back?"  It has been two years and he still asks when the dogs are coming back. Every. Single. Trip.   



This past Fall we lost a loved one suddenly.  We have not discussed this with him in depth because we are not physically at the location where he associates this person with ...and the ensuing disconnect for our son is very real.  We have to be physically there to tell him...no, she will not be joining us for dinner.  No, she will not be in her chair tonight to watch t.v.  For someone who thinks so literally, our son needs to see the absence to understand that there is absence. 


So now it is Spring and my grandmother has passed.  Given her declining health I had more time to research and determine a better way to communicate this impending event to my son.  Again, there will be confusion and disassociation but I really want him to feel empathy for my father who just lost his mother, and I want him to understand our conversations and why some people around him are sad.  He understands more than I give him credit for and I tend to realize this way after the fact; I then lament that a lesson had passed and now was lost.


So here are some reading suggestions.  In our case, we accomplish so much more in the evenings cuddled up with a book.  There are fewer distractions and he is much more calm at the end of the day.   A few of these are in my Amazon cart.  Once we get through them I will share our success rate!



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Tear Soup

by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen


Recommended Age: School Age-Adolescent


Amazon Rating: 4.5 out of 5












The Next Place

by Warren Hanson


Recommended Age: School Age-Adolescent


Amazon Rating: 5 out of 5






When Dinosaurs Die

by Laurie Brown and Marc Brown


Recommended Age:  5-12


Amazon Rating:  4 out of 5







I Miss You

by Pat Thomas


Recommended Age: 5-12


Amazon Rating: 4.5 out of 5







The Memory Box: A Book About Grief

by Joanna Rowland


Recommended Age: 5-12


Amazon Rating: 5 out of 5













Sad Isn't Bad

by Michaelen Mundy and R. W. Alley


Recommended Age: Pre School


Amazon Rating: 4.5 out of 5







Tell Me About Heaven Grandpa Rabbit!

by Jenny Albums


Recommended Age: Pre School


Amazon Rating: 5 out of 5

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