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Teaching your Children about Death

Learning about the Orthodox perspective on death is important for our children. Yet sometimes, we try to shelter our children from facing the reality of death until it becomes unavoidable. Children can begin understanding and gaining comfort from our church’s teaching at this age and even younger. Discussing death before a child is face to face with it helps to better prepare children for the day when they will experience the loss of a loved one. Below are some activities that can open up the dialogue on this subject.

Activity

Gather together memories of loved ones who have passed away. Share photo’s and favorite stories as a family. Talk about what you miss about that person and how you felt when they passed away. Have your children share also. If they have never known anyone who has passed away, this can still be a powerful activity because you are helping them understand that death is something that happens to everyone and that despite our missing that person we can remember them through memories and prayers. End by praying together as a family for the person that has passed away.

Make Koliva as a family either for Saturday of the Souls or a scheduled memorial service for a loved one. Talk to your parish priest about the best time to do this. We offer a recipe below for you to use if you don’t already have one.

From Scripture

I tell you the truth: whoever hears my words, and believes in him who sent me, has eternal life. He will not be judged, but has already passed from death to life.

– John 5:24

Most assuredly, I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies, it produces much grain

– John 12:24

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the work of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout with the vice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

– 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

For Further Information

Death can be a difficult topic to discuss with children especially when we are having a hard time dealing with it ourselves. The best time to discuss death is before children have to face it. A wonderful article entitled “Talking to Children about Death” by Albert Rossi & Fr. John Schimchik can help you start the conversation. This article is available at:

Here

Furthermore, an excellent book to help you discuss this topic with your child is the Grieving Child: A Parent Guide by Helen Fitzgerald and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. For children, two books that help illustrate death are Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley and the Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo F. Buscaglia. All of these books can be ordered through www.amazon.com. If you or your child is having a difficult time dealing with a loss, seek guidance from your parish priest.

Making Koliva

Supplies needed (amounts vary depending on the amount you want to prepare)

  • 1 pound whole wheat kernels
  • Water to cover kernels
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound confectioners’ sugar
  • White Jordan almonds
  • Silver Tray, Large Pot, Small sauce pan, linen table cloth Mixing Spoons, Bowls, Sieveand Wax Paper
  • Optional: pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries

Note

This recipe may be reduced to prepare only a small deep dish of Koliva for “Saturday of the Souls” Memorial Services, when many dishes of Koliva are brought to church.

Directions

Part I

  • Wash wheat with warm water. Place in a saucepan, add water to cover generously and simmer until wheat is soft.
  • Drain in colander, spread on a linen towel or tablecloth and allow wheat to dry thoroughly.  This will take several hours.
  • Put flour in a heavy skillet and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until golden.  Be careful not to scorch it.

Part II

In a large bowl, mix dried wheat with half the flour and add raisins, cinnamon, sugar and walnuts.  Blend well.  Place mixture on a tray, spreading evenly.  Sift the remaining flour over mixture to cover. Sift confectioners’ sugar over top and carefully press sugar down firmly with waxed paper or spatula. Decorate the tray of Koliva with Jordan almonds. Usually a large cross is formed in the center of the Koliva with the Jordan almonds and the initials of the deceased are formed on each side.