It’s been over a week since we heard the saddening news about Jose Fernandez, 24 year old pitcher for the Florida Marlins who died in a boat accident. I remember reading the news aloud from my Facebook feed that Saturday morning, and catching the attention of two not-so-normally-attentive little boys eating breakfast and watching Teen Titans.
I received a call from my sister shortly after, asking if G was around to talk because my nephews wanted to talk to him about what happened. It’s startling how this accident has impacted the boys in this manner. You (unfortunately) hear about people passing away everyday, but there was something about Fernandez that hit a sensitive chord for the boys.
At the Little League fields later that day, I’d hear conversations in passing between other parents:
“Is it true?”
“Did it really happen?”
All the while keeping the baseball spirit high for their little guys playing their hearts out.
Driving to baseball practice later this week, my little one said that it was unfair and that everyone was dying (we heard about Arnold Palmer’s passing the same day); that Jose was too young. I responded with, “I agree with you wholeheartedly. It isn’t fair and I wish I had something more comforting to say to you. All I can say is to live each day to its fullest.”
Such a conversation I didn’t want to be having with my 9 year old. I don’t want him to have to think that way, albeit as upbeat as it could be. Live each day to its fullest? He shouldn’t have to worry about that – he shouldn’t have to worry about much other than being a kid, doing his homework, and playing with his friends. I feel the need to take this pain, fear, sadness from him but I don’t know how.
One Way to Help Kids Handle Grief
On a later phone call with my parents, my nephew B expressed his sadness so my dad recommended he write a letter to Jose’s family, conveying his condolences and feelings. I thought this was a great way to help explain his emotions – to get them out.
Below is B’s letter to the Fernandez family:
To the family of Jose Fernandez,
I am super sorry of what happened to Jose. He was a very special baseball player to me. Is there anything I can do to help you guys? I’ll always remember him and think of him. My friends and cousin are also super sad. Me and my friend Kollen pray for him ever single day at lunch.
He also thought to write to David Ortiz, Big Papi.
B’s letter to Big Papi:
Dear David Ortiz,
I am super sorry of what happened to Jose Fernandez. I knew that you two were really good friends. I remember in the All Star game Jose Fernandez threw a pitch and it hit you and you were laughing. And I remember the day after he sadly passed away when they made the announcements about what happened you were crying. I was also crying when I figured it out. Let’s go Red Sox!
Other Ways to Help Your Child Deal with Death
There are a few other ways that can help your child deal with death.
- Be honest. It is important to be honest and straightforward to the best of the child’s understanding.
- Use simple words that he or she will understand.
- Memorialize. You can create a memorial in honor of the person – something as simple as a decorated poster or a drawing of the person. Planting a tree would be a great way as well.
- Be available. Be ready to answer any questions he or she may have. Take into consideration his or her age and level of understanding.
- Hug, hug and hug some more. A little extra affection can go a long way to comfort. Sometimes a big hug can make anyone feel a little better.
Death is something no one wants to talk about, even as adults. I’m 40 and I shy away from it, but I know I need to be strong for my kiddos. What ways have you used to help someone cope?