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Talking to Your Kids About Grief Is Painful. And You Have to Do It. (


In September, on one of the first days that felt like fall, we drove from our house in Rhode Island to my father’s house in Massachusetts to spend the weekend. It is still hard for me to write or say “my father’s house.” Until recently, it was “my parents’ house,” but my mother died in June after a short illness, and her simple gray purse no longer sits on the hall table.

From the moment we arrived, my 8-year-old seemed out of sorts: Everything we asked of her was a burden, every pleasant activity somehow disappointing. Children don’t generally tell us that they are grieving or worried. They often simply behave disagreeably to communicate discomfort or sorrow. (Adults are not always so different.)

That night I tucked her in. “It feels lonely without Grandmummy,” she finally confessed. “And I can’t stop thinking about death. About other people dying. Like Granddaddy.” What could I say? Same, baby. Same.

We are not religious, so I have nothing to offer my daughter by way of an afterlife, but even if I did, the reality is that her grandmother has left our world; she will never again read to my daughter on the sunny end of the couch. Death and loss are the great unfixable things: They must simply be endured.

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