Jade Goody: 'Mommy's Going to Die,' Helping Kids Cope With Death

PHOTO How do you tell your children about death when you are dying yourself?

Reality TV has gone pretty far already. We live vicariously through breakups, weddings, even live births on cable. If death is all that's left, then a British reality TV star with terminal cervical cancer has gotten extraordinarily close to broadcasting that moment.

Jade Goody's publicist reported Monday how the 27-year-old mother is explaining to her children that she is going to die.

"She's saying, 'there's going to be a star in the sky and that's going to be mommy watching you,'" said Max Clifford, Goody's publicist. Clifford said that Goody and her children Bobby, 5, and Freddy, 4, were recently christened and that Goody has been using the experience to explain her future death.

"She's described that as 'through Jesus mommy will be in touch with you,'" Clifford said.

Such intimate details about a parental death are rarely this public -- either in private lives or in the media's glare. Actor Heath ledger's child, Matilda, has been kept out of the spotlight since his death in January 2008.

Although the untimely death of Princess Diana dominated the media in 1997, it was only last week that her son Prince William first spoke publicly about his loss.

"Never being able to say the word 'mummy' again in your life sounds like a small thing. However, for many, including me, it is now really just a word -- hollow and evoking only memories," he told a crowd during a child bereavement charity function Thursday.

While no one can soften the blow of losing a parent, social workers and psychologists who study bereavement say there are many steps and missteps families can take that will have an impact on the child later in life.

Clifford said Goody consulted with a bereavement social worker before speaking with her kids. The family chose to uniformly tell the children what will happen to their mother and bought a bereavement book called "Badger's Parting Gift."

In addition to books, experts have developed some working guidelines for speaking with children facing the death of a parent.

Creating a Legacy and Identity for Children After Death

When clinical social worker Luanne Chynoweth saw that her very young niece and nephew were going to lose their mother, she made them something that would keep their mother alive in their memory.

"Their mom was only 30," said Chynoweth, now an assistant director of social work services at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

"So we took pictures when she was still well at Easter and I gave the kids some framed pictures later of them being hugged and loved by their mom," she said. "That was very meaningful to them as adults."

Whether it's a scrapbook or a video, or a letter for a wedding day, bereavement experts say children are usually comforted by a visible or tangible connection to their parents' past.

Christopher Reeve

The children of the actor Christopher Reeve told ABC News' Cynthia McFadden that home movies of their father horseback riding have comforted them as adults.

"We grew up doing, I think, every physical activity known to man," Alexandra Reeve told ABC News. "We sailed, we rode horses and it was just a huge part of who he was as a person, and what we did as a family."

Inspired by their father, Alexandra's brother Matthew Reeve has made a documentary about his father's life after the horseback-riding accident that left him paralyzed in 1995.

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