For adults, the loss of a loved is difficult and complex. But for children who are experiencing this first loss, it can be just as upsetting as it is confusing. These are some things you can do to support them as they grieve.
What is loss and grief?
Both grief and loss can have an impact on psychological well-being. While loss is often associated with something that can come back, grief can be something that will last forever. It is difficult to work through grief after a loss. This is because it is necessary to accept that the person will not be coming back.
What can children do to grieve?
The reaction of children to the death or loss of a loved person will differ depending on their life experience and age. Children are all different. The following examples of age-related responses for children of different intelligence and ages can be used.
Children under 5 years old often don’t understand that death is permanent. They may also ask if the person who died is coming back. Other behaviors they may display include clinging on to their caregivers or regressive behavior like wetting their bed. These behaviors are common and usually disappear after a period of time.
Children aged 6-11 years old begin to accept that death is permanent. However, some 6-year-olds may still have difficulties understanding this concept. They may also worry about the passing of loved ones and friends. They might ask more questions or want to know the truth. They might feel anger, physical pains or aches as a way to express their grief.
Young teenagers and adolescents around 12 years old understand that death is irreversible. It happens to everyone. They often want to understand why things happen. They will react differently and may be apathetic, angry, sad, or unable to concentrate.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There are no stages that should be used for different emotions and behaviours. The reactions of children will vary greatly depending on their age, intelligence, relationship with the deceased, and how their family reacts.
How can I tell my child about the death of my loved one?
It is important not to conceal the truth or delay in telling the truth. While it is normal to want to protect your child’s feelings, it is better to be open and honest. Your child will be more trusting of you if you tell them the truth. This will help them better deal with the loss.
Find a quiet and safe place for your children to talk to you and to think about what you want to say. Ask your children to join you. If the child is young and has a favorite object, toy, or comforter, allow them to have it. Talk slowly and pause often to allow them to understand and for you to take control of your emotions.
Children of all ages need to feel understood and listened to. However, it is important that you are clear with them and avoid using euphemisms. A child will be confused if you say something like “we lost someone”. Dr. Lisa Damour, a psychologist, suggests the following: “It is more helpful for adults to warmly but tenderly state that they have some very sad news. Your grandparent has passed away. This means that his body has stopped functioning and he will not be able to see us again. It can be difficult for grandparents to use such direct language but it is important to be honest with their grandparent.
Children will need to be given time to process the information. Young children might react by not listening. Wait for them to respond. Be prepared for your younger children to ask you the same questions over time, in this moment as well as over the coming days and weeks.
Be sure to check for “magical” thinking. Children may be concerned that they did or said something that led to the death. All ages of children may feel guilty.
Ask them: “Are your worried that Daddy will die because of something you did or said?” Then explain in plain English what happened, and assure them that they are not responsible. You could say, “You did not do anything wrong.” It was a virus that made Daddy sick, and caused him to stop breathing. It could have been caught anywhere. It was impossible to do anything, and no one was to blame.
Is it OK for me to grieve before my child?
It is perfectly normal and acceptable to express your sadness in front of your child. Be prepared to show your emotions in a calm manner so your child doesn’t get upset. However, be open with your feelings. Tell your child if you feel sad or upset and assure them that it is okay to express those feelings. Children will be able to identify, feel, and express their feelings better.
How can I support my child in coping with grief?
Children and adults can both mourn the loss of a loved one by grieving. Children should feel free to participate in whatever way you think is appropriate and most comfortable for them. Mourning allows your child to grieve, to celebrate the life of their loved one and to say goodbye.
You can hold a memorial to honor and celebrate the person you love. Your child can connect with the deceased person by finding ways to show their love, support them and to show how important they are in your life. Children might like to draw, write, sing, or read about the person.
Every family will have their own spiritual beliefs and cultural practices. It is possible to reach out to your spiritual leader if your family is members of a particular faith. They can help you explain the death and offer comfort to you and your children.
How can I ensure my child’s mental well-being after the death of a close friend?
- These are the top ways to help your child feel better, and protect their mental well-being.
- Continue to give loving, consistent care to your child, whether you are a relative, parent, or caregiver, whom they trust well.
- Young children and infants continue to feel loved and secure through physical contact, singing and cuddling, and rocking.
As much as possible, it is important to maintain a normal life routine and structure. You should maintain a consistent pattern for your day, with enough time to do activities such as cleaning, schoolwork, and play.
Regressive or challenging behavior by children should be understood as a way for them to express what they are unable to verbally communicate.
Make sure that parents or teachers inform other children about the events so they can support the child when they return to school.
Also, take care of your mental and physical health. It is normal to grieve. It can be difficult to support your children and deal with your own emotions. This is why it is important to take some time for yourself. Unwellness can make it difficult to help your children. You must get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and have someone to turn to for support. Avoid any unhealthy practices, such as excessive alcohol consumption.