Why We Shouldn't Shelter Our Kids from Grief and Loss

My almost 4-year-old climbs into my lap and asks for the hundredth time, "Where is Kaden?"

I respond with the same answer each time because it comforts her. "He went to heaven. He's with the two babies (our twins)."

I can see her brain process this yet again. "You are sad?"

"I'm happy and I'm sad. I'm happy because you are here, so is Daddy, and I know Kaden isn't sick any more. But I'm sad because I miss your brothers, and it's okay to be sad."

She nods. "You wanted them to come home, but no. Two babies were too small and Kaden was too sick."

This same conversation is played out multiple times a day in our home with Bella. I won't lie - talking about loss with children is incredibly difficult. It hurts to see her try so hard to comprehend why we didn't get to bring a baby home, again. After losing 3 brothers, she's waited excitedly for and been promised all kinds of fun things to do with them and I can't help but deeply feel the injustice handed to her at such a young age.

Related: The 10 biggest secrets parents hide from their kids

We aren't graphic about our losses, but we are open about our feelings and what happened to our sons. You might wonder if it's healthy to be talking about loss with children, to openly discuss what Kaden went through in the Children's Hospital while he waited on a heart transplant or to talk about how my twins, born at 20 weeks, were too small to survive. However, I know it is. We had Bella in play therapy after the loss of our twins. We learned that the repetition is her way to heal, and I remind myself what a huge accomplishment it is for her to be able to vocalize her questions and feelings to us and others.

To the man checking us out at Target: "My brother's heart is sick and now he's in heaven."

Our sitter: "I miss Kaden and the two babies. They didn't come home with us."

Her friends: "I am a big sister too! My brothers were too small to come home."

While some people are uncomfortable with the topic of death, we never discourage her from talking about it. Both my husband and I want her to know this is a part of life, and at her young age she doesn't need to know "rules" about when/where to discuss it like we might. I don't push or try to get her to talk about it, when she's done we move on to something else. It's simply a part of our life; even when it's incredibly sad and hard.

She was there and went through so much of it with us, I feel like it would be disrespectful to her if we tried to pretend it didn't happen or we're fine with it all now.

We want her to grow up and be able to deal with uncomfortable, painful emotions in a healthy way. I want her to understand that no emotion is forever. Sad, happy, angry, hurt - these all are temporary. It's how we deal with these emotions that make us who we are.

-By Diana Stone

For 15 memories from childhood our kids won't have, visit Babble!

7 things you should NEVER say to a kid
15 things that have terrified kids through the ages
11 mistakes all parents make (even the perfect ones!)