As a little boy, I lived next door to my Pop and Granny. It was awesome! Pop loved spending time with me, and I loved spending time with him. He would took me to the big town of Dexter and get me a treat of some kind … an ice cream, a Coke, or a candy bar. On one of those trips Pop finally gave in and bought me that bag of army soldiers I had been bugging him for.

Life as I knew it, though, was about to change forever. We were just a couple of minutes from getting back to the house from one of our trips when a drunk driver hit us head on. I was just six years old when Pop died. As I stood next to the casket with my mom, she told me that Pop was at peace. Granny was crying. My aunt and uncle were upset. It was a difficult day for my family.

Losing someone close to you, no matter what age you are, is tough. Many children in my generation were sheltered from the pain of death. Today, however, things are different. A recent The New York Times article addressed the need for children to be involved in the grieving process just as adults are. Studies have shown that children are better off when they are allowed to mourn along with their relatives and peers.

In recent years grief professionals have been working hard to address the needs of children. Counseling centers and grief camps specializing in helping children cope with the pain of death are available all over the country. Hospice workers help prepare all family members for the death of their loved one.

Trying to shield children from death can make the grief process worse. Death, while difficult for all of us, is a natural part of life. Benjamin Mee, a British writer who bought a failing zoo while becoming a widower and single father, talked about how he and his children learned to cope with their loss. In an interview with The Telegraph, Mee said,

“That is how I feel about the zoo. Rebuilding it was cathartic. But the zoo itself is also a tremendous place for healing. It connects you to the circle of life. We have births, we have deaths and they remind you that we are just another family unit that has suffered a loss – like the tigers who lost their grand-father or the tapirs who had a stillborn calf.”

I like what Mee had to say. Maybe growing up on a farm helped me deal with losing my Pop. As my wife and I recently watched the 2011 movie based on Mee’s story, We Bought a Zoo, I was reminded that grief is just as real for kids as it is for adults. No matter how young or old you may be, dealing with death is tough. Find someone to walk with you though the journey.