Talking to Children About Death: A Personal Journey and a Chance for You to Help Others

LindsayZI remember being told that the grieving process was a journey.  It would hit me at different times, in unexpected moments and in unanticipated ways.  When I was nine years old and my sister suddenly passed away, I think I processed grief similarly to many other children.  I was not able to understand the medical complications surrounding her death, but I knew that my life and my family would never be the same.  I lost my partner in crime, lover of dress-up, favorite play mate, and best friend.

As a senior at Bucknell University, I still find that my sister’s death impacts me at Lindsay and sistercertain moments.  I am sure that will continue for the rest of my life.  On graduation day.  On my wedding.  At the birth of my first child.  The list can go on and on.  However, I am blessed to have the family and friends I do.  Throughout my family’s journey, the community has helped us in remarkable ways.  My parents, with the help of a local university and dance studio, founded a dance camp for children with physical disabilities that is offered free of charge every summer.

Now that I am older, I have the intrinsic desire to help my sister’s legacy live on in my own way.  I study Psychology at Bucknell and I have had a number of research experiences.  I have grown to learn that sometimes we choose our research interests, but it’s those special research interests that choose us.  They can be the most powerful.

If you’re a parent of a bereaved child, you might be able to help me.  I am looking for parents who have at least one child between the ages of 8 and 14 and who are willing to participate in my Senior Honors Thesis.  (To be eligible, families must have experienced the loss of a family member within the last five years.) My study is examining how families cope with a family member’s death, but I am particularly interested in learning about how parents are talking to children about death.

If you are interested in participating, you can complete a brief series of surveys on your computer.  All answers are kept anonymous and confidential.  Additionally, you will be entered into a raffle to win one of five $50.00 giftcards (which could be exchanged for a donation to a grief counseling center of your choice).  To access the survey, please visit: https://sites.google.com/a/bucknell.edu/coping/home.  (This research has been approved by Bucknell’s Institutional Review Board and is advised by Dr. Chris Boyatzis.)

If you are eligible to participate, thank you for even considering my request.  I realize this is a very personal topic, and I am so appreciative of the parents who are willing to take the time to complete my surveys.   If you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to contact me via email at laz005@bucknell.

When my thesis is done, I intend to share it with grief counseling centers.  I would be honored if my work can help families cope with the death of a loved one.  I am all too familiar with the challenges faced by grieving families myself, and I want to give back to a community that has helped my family get through a really challenging time.  Similar to the goals of AfterTalk, if my thesis can later help bring comfort to parents and children who are grieving, I will feel proud of my final product.  I am confident that my sister will be proud too.

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