I was honored to be quoted in a thoughtful post by Jeanne Davis about using movies to help kids talk about grief and loss.
Movies are as full of loss as they are of love, unspooling the human experience in all its dimensions. They can provide a wonderful springboard for conversation about all manner of emotions — including the complex, confusing, and often isolating feelings associated with the loss of a loved one.
Movies can create a safe space for conversation, especially for families. It may be easier — or more accessible — for children to talk about what little Nemo (Finding Nemo) or Simba (The Lion King) is going through than what they themselves are going through. In fact, they may well not understand what they are going through and what the future holds, and it can be very comforting — and revealing — to talk about the feelings and the journey of a fictional character.
“Movies are a wonderful way to begin a discussion,” says Nell Minow, who begins movie discussions almost every day on her popular Movie Mom blog on Beliefnet.com and has written a guide to family movies. “With children, especially little kids, it gives them an emotional vocabulary. How does this character feel — happy, sad, confused?”
While some might want to protect kids from movies that are “too sad” or “too difficult,” Debra and Nell say movies are a great way to expose kids to the challenges of life, love and loss. While Debra’s work puts her in close touch with children who are already grieving, Nell casts a wider net to all families — and she recommends opening the channels of communication early and often. “Movies are a good gateway to open up difficult topics,” says Nell. “Ideally, you want to get this topic on the table for kids before they’re confronted by a devastating loss.”
The post includes recommended films for young and older children and teens and some thoughtful questions to help families start discussions of sensitive and difficult topics.