Where Adult & Childhood Grief Meet - A Conversation with Darnell Walker

interviews Mar 10, 2024

Last week, Grieve Leave founder, Rebecca Feinglos, sat down with Darnell Walker, Emmy-nominated children's television writer and death doula, for a discussion on the Grieve Leave Instagram. Darnell has written for shows like PBS Kids' Work It Out Wombats!, Netflix's Karma's World, and Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues & You. He shared his unique journey spanning children's media and grief support, offering insights into helping kids and families navigate grief. Darnell and Rebecca also shared an embarrassingly long laugh about their shared love of the Muppets– and specifically Elmo’s hatred of Rocco. (If you don’t know, take our advice and Google it!)

You can watch the full interview HERE and read three of our favorite takeaways below:

"...[..during a recent conversation with leadership at Experience Camps, she shared] there are six million children in the world who need to see someone like them going through this thing to help them figure out how to get through it."

The grief of a child is often an invisible, misunderstood experience. Too frequently, their pain is minimized or brushed aside with the assumption that kids are resilient and will simply "bounce back." But the truth is, children feel the depths of loss just as profoundly as adults. It just doesn’t always look or sound like adult grief.

Seeing characters or stories that mirror their own journeys through grief creates a profound connection - a reassurance that they are not alone, not "weird" or "different" for the thoughts and feelings they can't quite name. Suddenly, their experiences are validated, and their inner worlds are reflected back.

“Just be open to not be afraid of getting it wrong... A lot of parents are afraid of getting it wrong. And it's like, what if I tell them the wrong thing? There are so many stories out there, and there's not just one way in.”

As parents, it's normal to clutch tightly to the role of protector - shielding your children from harm, hurt, and confusion. So when grief enters the scene, that protective instinct becomes a double-edged sword. You want so desperately to help your children through this foreign landscape of loss, and yet many are paralyzed by the fear of making it worse, saying the wrong thing, opening wounds we don't know how to "fix.” But there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to grieving, especially for kids. It’s okay to be imperfect, to stumble through these conversations–you’re human! Let the kids see you navigate your feelings, too.

"It's not just pets that die...people die...So much of the children's media that currently exists about death and grief is about a dog dying or a fish dying..."

Grief remains a taboo subject. We tiptoe around it, or speak about it euphemistically to kids. Darnell wants to see us putting grief, death, and loss front and center in children's stories.

These narratives aren’t just for children viewers. They are also for the parents, teachers, and caregivers who so often feel in over their heads when it comes to how to talk to kids about the things that are hard for them to talk about even with adults. Suddenly, the narratives act as field guides. We can look to stories to help us start conversations, what language to use, and how to hold space as our kids (and we) navigate grief.

Our conversation with Darnell serves as a powerful reminder that children's grief needs the spotlight. By combining his talents in children's media and death doula work, Darnell is helping break down stigmas and create spaces for families to feel seen and supported through loss. A huge thank you to Darnell for his openness and the vital work he's doing!

To connect with Darnell and learn more about his efforts in children's television and grief support, head over to @hello_darnell on Instagram.

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