How to Help Your Child Grieve
Death is a inescapable aspect of life. We must deal with it and so must our children. Being there to help your child grieve and cope with loss can ease their mind and help them to comprehend any questions they may have about death.
Psychologists have studied children’s responses to the death of a loved one and have found that children are not as vulnerable as many adults assume them to be. Children are aware of death at a very early age – they may see a dead animal along the roadside or read about it in fairy tales or watch a television character die. By talking to our children about death, we discover what they know and do not know – if they have any misconceptions, fears, or worries.
The death of a close family member can flood children’s minds with many questions about death. It is important to let them know it is okay to ask questions and there is no wrong question. This is the first step towards finding ways to help your child grieve the death of the loved one.
Here are several tips that you can also try using during the grief process:
Let them know death is a part of life
You are not protecting your child from the unpleasantness of death by avoiding talking to them about death. Death is a natural part of life, and it should be something that children know of and understand why it happens. Let the change of seasons that cause flowers to die or the death of a family pet be teaching examples that will help your child grieve and understand about death. Let them know that aging is normal for everyone; it takes us closer to our last days on earth.
Assure them that everything is OK
Sometimes things happen that make the subject of death seem dominating around the home. For instance, the death of a family pet that is soon followed by the demise of a parent, sibling or relative can have children battling with confusion and a whirlwind of emotions. Help your child grieve by giving reassurance that though the loved one has passed on, death is not after any other family member and that those who remain are not going anywhere anytime soon.
Acknowledge and accept their ways of grieving
As mentioned earlier, have a different grief process, and this differs from child to child based on age, ration to the departed, personality and level of understanding. The best approach to help your child grieve is by letting them share their feeling about the death of the loved one. Expect various signs such as sadness, exclusion, and detachment and have ways around them to let the child know that it is okay to hurt and feel sad.
Include the child in the family grief process
When a family member dies, it may affect the way the family functions as a whole. Relationships within the family may shift, adjusting to this change in the family structure. Children may simultaneously mourn the person who died and the family dynamic that existed before the death. Children may grieve the changed behavior of family and friends.
Inclusion is an effective tactic because the child can see they are not alone when included with another family members that are saddened, hurting, and mourning their loved one. If appropriate, let the child attend the memorial service and even have something to say about the departed. If the child does not attend the service, he or she should be taken to the cemetery at a later date.
By encouraging children to talk and ask questions about death, we can give them accurate information and help them when they are upset. Even though we may be grieving, our children deserve honest and concrete explanations, while listening to feelings in a sympathetic and non-judgmental way.