Letters for surviving kids should be written completely with the child in mind. It’s your opportunity to share the experiences you had with their parent. The intent should be for the child to get to know their parent better through you. We want to encourage people to send letters without concern for guidelines, but we can suggest some of the following inclusions in your letter…
A few words about how you knew their parent, and the frequency and timing of your relationship.
A story that includes descriptive words about the deceased’s personality. When possible the story should be upbeat, but avoid the temptation to distort the truth and create any false images.
You can have fun by setting a scene – “If your Dad and I had joined the circus, he would have been the lion tamer and I would have been the clown….”.
An old picture.
A true story that tells of their values.
Something made or written by the deceased.
For items sent it would be courteous to have one for each surviving kid, as well as one for the adult (children tend to lose things).
No one is ever too old to receive a surviving kid letter, but remember, if the surviving kid you’re writing is still under the care of a parent or guardian, be sure to address your letter to the adult. They will use their best judgment on when to present the letter
Recent tips from Ed Owens at The Grief Recovery Method:
- Listen with your heart, not your head. Allow all emotions to be expressed, without judgment, criticism, or analysis.
- Recognize that grief is emotional, not intellectual. Avoid the trap of asking your child what is wrong, for he or she will automatically say, “Nothing.”
- Adults – Go first. Telling the truth about your own grief will make your child feel safe in opening up about his or her own feelings.
- Remember that every child is unique and each has a unique relationship to the loss event.
- Be patient. Don’t force your child to talk.Never Say “Don’t feel sad” or “Don’t feel scared.” Sadness and fear, the two most common feelings attached to loss of any kind, are essential to being human.