For young children, the sudden death of a family member can be a very confusing, sad, and traumatic time. After all, how do you explain to a preschool aged child a sibling, parent, grandparent, or other signficant family member is gone and is not coming back? Even as adults, nothing prepares you from the painful loss as the process of grieving can become consuming and at times feels never ending.
When my father passed away a few days after Christmas, the task of explaining to my daughters that their beloved grandpa suddenly died in a pedestrian/car accident was numbing. My eight year old daughter Mimi moped around the house for a week in silence as she tried to understand how grandpa would no longer be visiting us as he did every week. Ten year old Abigail cried and often expressed her sadness for herself but especially her grandma. Then there was Eli. He was two and a half years old when his grandpa died. Still too young to understand what happened but old enough to know everyone was very very sad.
At my dad’s open casket funeral, my husband held Eli in his arms and they stared at grandpa as he lay there so peacefully. I explained to Eli that grandpa was sleeping and that we would see him again someday. This seemed to satisfy Eli and he continued to be his happy go lucky self. Even to this day if you ask him where grandpa is his answer is always, “Grandpa is sleeping.”
When a loved one dies there is no easy answer to explain death to a young child. Every family processes and grieves differently as they navigate through the maze of emotions in an attempt to figure out what each day and holiday now looks like without the special family member a part of it. Life as it was before is no more and redefining normal is a gradual process every family is forced to go through.
Last Saturday, a CH-47 Chinook military helicopter crashed in Afghanistan killing 22 Navy Seals and 8 other US servicemen becoming the single largest loss of life for US troops since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001. As I’ve been following this story I am saddened by how many of these soldiers left behind families including 10-year-old Braydon Nichols from Kansas City, Mo. His father was Army Chief Warrant Officer Bryan Nichols, the pilot of the Chinook. Braydon recently posted this iReport on CNN as a tribute to his father. His post is just four sentences long but long enough to know he was very proud of him and wanted the world to understandably know this. I am assuming one of many ways Braydon is dealing with his father’s death is by making sure Officer Nichols is remembered with honor for his sacrificial service to this country.
More recently, Jennifer Perillo, a fellow food writer, good friend, and mother of two young daughters ages 3 and 8, lost her husband to a sudden heart attack just a few days ago. The outpouring of support for her from the food community and Twitterverse has been tremendous. On her food blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen, she has asked for those who would like to support her to, “…help my healing process, make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.”
If you’re interested in joining us in making a peanut butter pie tomorrow, she wrote a beautiful post about her husband, Mikey, as well as her recipe for Peanut Butter Pie. In honor of the Perillo family I’m posting a quick and easy Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie. I hope you decide to make one tomorrow and share it with those around you as a celebration of love, family, friendship, and life.
As a side note, here is a great resource from PBS Parents on “When Families Grieve” with tips for parents on how to share and talk about the loss of a loved one with their kids.
Related Kitchen Explorers article: Caring For Others-Bereavement Meals