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Making Decisions
A Peaceful Death
A "peaceful death" offers a child the chance to live fully even as he may be dying.
Certainly the death of a child can be a tough topic to read or even think about, but there's much to be learned about how we live from how we die. And while it's unfair for any parent to outlive her child, a peaceful death is an experience (sadly) that some parents will have the opportunity to provide to some children.
According to doctors and social workers at Children's Memorial Hospital, a peaceful death is a positive and rich experience parents can create for a child who's dying. This is a chance to make room for some joy within the sadness, to find comfort within the pain, to listen to and acknowledge the child you love, to find out what's important to her and help her take care of business as she knows it, to hold her, and to let her go in peace. A peaceful death provides an opportunity to support a child in her journey in a way that's appropriate to your faith, to your family, and to your child.
Pediatric Oncologist Dr. Stewart Goldman, who has cared for countless critically ill children, believes that "A peaceful death is one where we can keep the child out of pain, maintain as much normalcy as possible, and do as many things as possible that the child and family love to share, give the child a chance to express his feelings and have feelings expressed to him, give the child a chance to be with his friends, and to be 'himself' as much as possible. It's all pretty simple, and that's the beauty of it.'"
Social worker Mary Mathews, who counsels children and their parents says, "A peaceful death means living right up to the day you die. And it means living as normally as possible. If you give a terminally ill child a treat every time you go the grocery store that won't make him live any longer. Parents do things like this because they often don't know how to talk about and work through the naturally difficult feelings around losing a child."
Parenting Strategies
Find out how to talk, how to listen, how to say goodbye, and how to enjoy the last days together.
Talking Tips Age by Age
Learn what children understand about death and dying, and what matters to them most.
Liz Paris Saying Goodbye
"How do you cram a lifetime into a short time?" One mom decides to take the lead from her dying daughter.
"Death is one event that's part of life and you want each experience to be as good as it can be. Terminally ill children may grow tremendously in an emotional and spiritual way even as their health deteriorates. This is good for the child, the siblings, and the parents. Family life should still focus on living....Families should continue to create happy memories and celebrations."
Mary Mathews
Social Worker