Posted: 04/14/2010


When Families Grieve, April 14 On PBS


by Laura Tucker

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As adults, it’s incredibly hard for us to understand grief and the process of dying. We don’t know how to react towards each other when someone dies, don’t know how to share the news with others, etc. So to expect kids to know how to handle it is somewhat unrealistic. Sesame Street has come out with a special, “When Families Grieve” airing the night of April 14 to help them understand the process a little more, and in truth, it’s helpful to adults as well.

The special is hosted by Katie Couric, someone who knows what it’s like to guide a family through the process. Couric lost her husband, Jay Monahan, to colon cancer twelve years ago. At the time, her daughters were two and six years old. Not only did Couric grieve publicly for her husband, her daughters had to as well.

Couric does have a cohost on this special, Elmo. Elmo talks to her about how sad he is about his uncle who has passed away. His uncle is his cousin Jesse’s dad, and she and Elmo’s dad take part in the discussion as well. Elmo’s dad talks about wanting to help Elmo through the process, as well as what a great man his brother was, and Jesse talks about not wanting to talk to anybody about her dad dying when it first happened.

But the process isn’t only told through muppets. It’s also told through four real life families. These families have all experienced a parent dying, one father died in Iraq, another made it back from Iraq then committed suicide, another father had a heart attack, and a mother died of breast cancer. The focus is on the children and how the surviving widow/widower dealt with the pressures surrounding their spouse’s death.

The kids have gone through the whole process, and they and their surviving parent tell their stories. Couric also sits down with the surviving parents and shares her own story with them as they discuss the challenges they all met while grieving with their kids. Particularly difficiult was the widow of the man who committed suicide. She had been advised at first to not share with her kids that their dad had committed suicide, and did keep the truth from them for awhile, then realized she wasn’t doing them any favors.

The stories were all very gripping and heart-wrenching, yet while they were hard to hear, it’s almost as if it’s a necessity to hear them. The special itself handled everything so honestly, from feelings to the process of grief itself, that I think this special would be a great thing to have on hand the next time a child experiences grief. There’s no right or wrong way to handle it, and kids need to know that, and that some day it will all feel a little bit better, but that they never need to forget.

Sesame Street’s “When Families Grieve” airs on PBS on April 14.

Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at

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