Dear CMG Families,
During this time of grief, many of you have asked how to discuss the death of Dr. Dodson with your children. Dell Children’s Medical Center’s Certified Child Life Specialists drafted a letter to be utilized when talking to your child about death and specifically this tragic loss and it can be seen below.
Certified Child Life Specialists are developmental experts who utilize play and developmentally appropriate language to help children understand and emotionally process stressful life events, like the loss of a loved one. The Dell Children’s child life team is available if you are in need of additional guidance.
The Child Life Bereavement Committee & Your CMG Family
We are very sorry for your loss and know the entire community is grieving Dr. Dodson, who was
a big part of you and your child’s life. Dell Children’s would like to offer some help about how to talk to your children about what happened. Please feel free to use this letter to start the conversation and reach out to them with any questions.
When talking to your children about death, it is important to be honest and use the words death
or died. It’s important to use concrete words so children know death is final. While it may feel
gentler to use phrases such as “she’s gone to a better place” or “she’s sleeping”, these phrases
are often confusing to children. It is okay to show emotion and acknowledge your own feelings
when talking to your child. You are teaching your child how to grieve through your behaviors so
it’s important to be honest about how you feel about Dr. Dodson dying.
Below is a list of questions that children commonly ask when being told of a death. Try to
answer only the questions they ask, so you don’t provide more information than needed or
what they can handle.
● Why did she die?
○ Her body was hurt so badly it stopped working.
● How did she get hurt?
○ Somebody used a gun to hurt her body.
● Why did someone hurt her?
○ I don’t know. She didn’t do anything wrong and it wasn’t her fault. We may never
know why and that’s hard. (“I don’t know” is okay to say. If your family has
specific words you would like to use, feel free. Sometimes we don’t have answers
to big questions and that’s okay.)
● Is someone going to hurt you when you go to work?
○ If your child asks this question, talk about the safety protocols in place to protect
you (security guards, trainings, locks).
○ The person who hurt Dr. Dodson cannot hurt anyone else. He also died.
○ Your child may seek extra reassurances at this time. Offer plans to check in
throughout the day (text, facetime, phone call, etc.) and discuss safety plans for
your own household (at home, at work, at school, etc.).
● Is someone going to hurt me? Am I safe?
○ Remind them of all the things you do to keep them safe.
○ Ask them if there is anything else you can do to make them feel more safe.
It is likely your children will ask these questions and ask about Dr. Dodson several times after
this conversation, this is a sign of them processing the information. Be open to further
conversations and try to use the same language to avoid confusion. Your next visit to the doctor
will look differently and may bring up these questions again. That’s normal and it’s okay to feel
these emotions again at that time.
Something very sad and unexpected happened last week.
Dr. Dodson died.
Her body stopped working and when someone’s body stops working, they die.
Dr. Dodson loved being able to take care of you.
Nothing you did or didn’t do caused this to happen and it’s not your fault.
Next time you come to see the doctor, Dr. Dodson will not be here and you will meet a new
Your new doctor will get to know you and take care of you.
You may feel mad, sad, or scared that Dr. Dodson died, and that’s okay. Other people may feel
mad, sad or scared too.
Sometimes when you feel this way, it helps to draw a picture or write a message. You can also
choose not to do anything.
You can always talk to your family, new doctor, or someone you trust about the way you feel.
You are safe and we do everything we can to keep you safe.
Book and Resource List
● The Goodbye Book, by: Todd Parr
● Fred and Red Say Goodbye, by: Austin Schlichtman
● Healing Your Grieving Heart for Kids, by: Alan D Wolfelt
● I Miss You, by: Pat Thomas
● A Terrible Thing Happened, by: Margaret M Holmes
● The Invisible String, by: Patrice Karst (Spanish option: El Hilo Invisible)
● Healing Your Grieving Heart for Teens, by: Alan D Wolfelt