Archive for Children

12 Suggestions for Talking to Kids about Death

A patient asked his hospice nurse, “How can I tell my kid that I’m dying?”

And the nurse later asked me.

It’s a scary question for parents and grandparents when they enter hospice care and have “six months or less to live.”

Before attempting answers, there are several good reasons to question my responses.

First, I don’t have children. I’ll never tell my own kid that I am dying. Second, I’m not an expert, but do have experience. A minister, I’ve supported families during the time of dying and grieving. Right now, in hospice, I work in bereavement support.

Now you’re aware of my advice-giver flaws! However, with conversations involving parents, kids, and dying, being open about your weaknesses (and not forgetting your strengths) is important. Read More →

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Childish Hospice Lessons

In my Christian tradition, Jesus said, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

You could find that passage in Mark 10:15. But this I also know: all religions have scriptures and traditions that affirm the importance of every single precious child.

And every single “child-like” adult.

I believe Jesus understood God’s realm in two different ways. The first was after death. Eternal life. But the second was equally important. It is the realm of the next moment and next relationship and next decision. The “realm of God” is where what is said or done can reveal how God longs for us to be in community, to be neighbors.

As a hospice chaplain, I witnessed both paths: the hope of life after death, the hope of life now.

Remember how you felt when hurt by the words or ways of another and they came to you, honestly seeking your forgiveness? I hope you have had those experiences. In that moment, as you gave forgiveness, you helped build or rebuild a “community” between you and another. Forgiving is a way for the selfish to become the selfless, the stranger to be greeted as friend, hate transformed by mercy, fists replaced by welcoming hands. Read More →

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Fragile: Handle with Care

The woman suddenly cried.

In an intake of a breath, she shifted from smiling and looking a bit weary from work . . . to tears. The person beside her, older and probably her mother, was caught off guard. What do you do with an abruptly weeping thirty-something daughter?

The women had been passing in front of my hospice’s table display. Along with a colleague, I staffed the table—covered by brochures, info packets, resource samples, and some very popular mints for giving away—to answer questions about grief support services.

The sobbing woman stared at the section of the table devoted to our Angel Babies program.

My colleague leaned toward her and asked, quietly, gently, “How long ago?”

“Seven years.”

Seven years since the death of her child.


Let me, with humility and a dose of confidentiality, press the “remote” to pause these sentences. Read More →

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