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Helping a 9-Year-Old Cope with Loss

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Guest blogger Role Mommy shares how her daughter recently grieved after losing her favorite teacher.explaining_to_9yrold.jpg

When I heard the news about Cameron Diaz losing her own dad suddenly and the tips Mom•Logic offered to help adults cope, I began to reflect on a tragic loss my own daughter faced this week when her beloved teacher, and her husband died in a house fire caused by a bolt of lightning.

The morning after this tragic occurrence, my daughter was preparing to celebrate her 9th birthday, and as we went to pick up her photo cake, I received a call from a friend who shared the horrific news with me. My husband and I contemplated telling our daughter right in the fruit and vegetable aisle, but then decided we'd move to a quieter place to tell her what happened. And so, after we put the groceries in the trunk, we closed the car doors and broke the news.

While she was initially shocked and in disbelief, within minutes, my daughter broke down in tears. She couldn't understand why bad things happen to good people. I even got all spiritual on her and said that maybe God needed two really good people like the Rabbi and his wife to help him protect all of us and she countered with, "Why doesn't he just take the bad people?" Devoid of a decent answer, I changed the subject and we went on with our day, threw a fun-filled rock climbing party and it seemed as if my daughter had bounced back.

The next day however, our synagogue held a memorial service for my daughter's class and that's where she fell apart. She didn't want to hear that one of her favorite teachers, who had just written in her report card that it was an "honor to have Rebecca in class," was no longer coming back. I reassured her that her teacher was watching over her, just like my Grandma Dora does every day of my life. I don't know if that soothed her, but at the moment, I couldn't think of anything else that would ease her sorrow.

A few days later, when Rebecca was back at school with a new teacher, the kids came up with their own stories of where Mrs. Rubenstein could have gone. Rebecca said she was going to pretend that she's in Israel since she loved it so much, while others said she won the lottery and took a trip to Hawaii. The children wrote cards and drew pictures to send to the teacher's family. I can't imagine what they are going through and how they are coping with the loss of their mother and father. But what I do know is that while their parents might be gone, they will certainly never be forgotten.

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
rosee285 May 9, 2008, 10:07 PM

I remember losing a favorite cousin at 9 years old. He was my best friend and my worst enemy, but when he died from Leukemia (many years ago (40+) when there was very little treatment for it) I was devastated and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t coming home and even more why I could not see him and say goodbye. Children were protected from the pain of death when I was young, and I know our parents thought it was for the best, but when I had to deal with death as an adult, I was not prepared.
I lost my 6 month old little girl, Gillian, and as hard as it was for my 9 year old son, I believed (and knew from experience), that it was important for him to grieve. It was so difficult for him, but I know it made things better for him later in life to deal with losing friends and family. It is never easy but we should not protect our children from grief or teach them anything but the truth about it, they will just end up knowing what the real truth is anyway, just like everything else that we have to re-teach them.
I have found my spiritual self only in the past year, and I sometimes now actually feel a hand on my back or a pat on my head, and I know it is family that has passed from their human form that are always still with us.

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