Helping Children Cope With Balloon Messages
by Melissa Hunter
As all parents know, raising children includes the responsibility of mending broken toys, soothing hurt feelings and healing scratched knees. This is a given that most parents manage with very little effort. But as parents, I do not believe, that we are ever prepared for the responsibility of having to explain the loss of a loved one to our children.
My husband and I were faced with just this when our children were 4 and 6 years old. Barely able to deal with our own grief of the death of my younger brother, we were overwhelmed by their need for answers to the very same questions we had ourselves. And as any parent who has found themselves in this same situation must know, the task of answering their questions is often painful and counterproductive. Children are unable to process much of the information we offer and are often left feeling more confused and distraught.
With reservations, I made the decision to purchase them each a balloon to send to their Uncle . However, the idea held much more promise after I stopped to think of the fact that we had excluded them from our conversations pertaining to my brother's death and basically shielded them from everything we thought would be too painful for them. This included my brother's funeral service. And once I began to give this serious thought, it became abundantly clear that they felt as helpless as we did.
The uncertainty of exactly where their Uncle had gone was a major factor in their grief but when we suggested they 'send' a balloon to him, it seemed to magically fill the void caused by the uncertainty. And although they could not see him or pick up the telephone and call him, they were positively thrilled at the possibility of him receiving their balloons. In their minds, sending a balloon meant he would receive it and if he received it, he must still be with them. The balloon served as a form of communication and communication spawns healing.