The topic of today’s episode comes courtesy of my good friend Sarah, who fortunately hasn’t yet had any reason to use this knowledge, but asked me to do an episode on how to help children cope with illness, death, and grief, so she can be ready in case she ever needs it.
Dr. Atle Dyregrov joins us from Bergen, Norway. He graduated as a psychologist in 1980 and worked for five years in the Pediatrics department at Haukeland University Hostpital, helping families whose children had died. He also co-founded the Center for Crisis Psychology and served as its general manager for 25 years; he is now its academic director. He has worked particularly extensively with children who have experienced loss and trauma, as well as at the sites of major accidents and disasters both in Norway and abroad, and has written numerous books, book chapters, and research articles on children’s response to death and crises.
It turns out that this ended up being a very timely episode for me indeed: you'll hear in the show that my mum died when I was young. Not even a week after I did this interview, my daughter was playing with Legos in our living room when she asked - completely out of the blue - "Do you have a mama?" Having done this interview I was well-prepared for a short but straightforward conversation, and was able to shift what would likely have been a very uncomfortable situation for me into something where I felt much more confident in explaining how people's bodies stop working when they die.
Subscribers to my newsletter will recall that we spent last week in Missouri visiting the very same Sarah who requested the episode, and I had given her a summary of the content and told her about my daughter's question. A couple of days later Sarah and my daughter found a dead bug on a playground and Sarah said "I think it's dead," and my daughter responded "Did it's body stop working?". Sarah was taken aback...and amused...and was able to answer the question without losing her cool.
Listen to this episode - we're all gonna need it at some point!