1. Tell everyone. Right away.
When Z sees someone she hasn't seen since her Papa died, she immediately announces it: "Hi! My Papa died and we're all really sad.... Wanna play?"
2. Follow all declarations of sadness with fun activities.
3. Draw and paint and tell stories, every day, as long as you need to.
Z spent much of the week after her Papa died drawing pictures of him. Papa when he was alive. Papa and Z together. Papa after he died. She used different colors each time and kept up a running commentary about what she was remembering about Papa as she was drawing.
A few times, I drew too.
4. Print out favorite photos and put them in frames next to your bed to keep you company.
5. We all live with the knowledge of death. It's okay to have questions, to wonder and worry just a bit.
I keep thinking that she needs us to have complete and perfect answers for her. We reassure her that he wasn't, and isn't, in any pain. We tell her he lives on in our memories. But when we admit that we just don't know exactly what it feels like when you die or where you actually go, I always feel a pang of inadequacy. But she doesn't seem surprised that we don't have all the answers. She seems fine to sit with uncertainty.
And so should we, I think.
6. It's okay to laugh and play and dance again. It doesn't mean you don't miss your loved one.
We're working on this one.