Helping children deal with grief and the loss of a loved one can be difficult, particularly if you are dealing with your own grief. While most children are aware of death, they may not fully understand it.
Death is a common theme in many children’s films, programmes, cartoons and books, and some of their friends may have already suffered the loss of a loved one, but dealing with it firsthand is a solitary experience.
Children are good at detecting when an adult is upset, so it’s best to be honest and open, while remaining sensitive and considerate. As a parent of carer, you cannot safeguard your child against the pain that follows bereavement, but there are steps you can take to help them feel safe and guide them through this difficult time.
It is important to make your child feel comfortable and confident enough to discuss how they are feeling. Enabling them to express their thoughts and feelings will contribute to their developing healthy coping mechanisms for similar future events.
There is no set structure to grieving – not for adults or children. After the loss of a loved one, your child may experience bouts of contrasting emotions. One minute they may be crying inconsolably, and in another, they may be playing and laughing with friends.
Do not mistake this behaviour as a sign that your child is no longer suffering, children cope differently to adults. Younger children may even show signs of regression. This can include wetting the bed or slipping back into baby talk.
Allowing your child to feel upset, guilty, anxious, angry, or even happy, will help them to deal with grief naturally. These feelings may be directed at themselves, the person who has passed away, or even yourself. Being prepared for all outcomes will allow you to help your child through the grief they may be experiencing.
Sometimes children may find it difficult to express the way they are feeling. There are many books and programmes about death and the grieving process that your child may identify with. These methods are also a great way to instigate a conversation about death with your child.
Be sure to remain cautious about avoid sharing too much information with your child – this may confuse or overwhelm them – you should encourage them to ask questions and be prepared to give honest answers.
Here are a few tips to remember when helping children deal with grief:
For more information on coping with the loss of a loved one, you can visit the Child Bereavement UK website – they have some helpful tips and advice for parents, relative, carers and children.
Encourage children to write down their feelings and create a story about death and the experience of grieving. This can be incredibly cathartic, helping them to cement their relationship with the person who has died and show their awareness of their passing away.
Getting them to write a story will also give you a better idea of what they understand about the situation, how they are grieving and allow to correct anything that is inaccurate.
There are certain considerations to take when helping children deal with grief. As is the same with adults, each individual child’s experience of grief will be different. How a child responds to the loss of a loved one will differ depending on such factors as:
If you are supporting more than one child through this difficult time, it is important to remember that they may require completely different levels and types of support. Additionally, sometimes children may be in a position to help each other if they are both experiencing the death of loss on at the same time.
For further expert advice and comprehensive information on helping children deal with grief and the loss of a loved one, there are many wonderful websites, including:
Care for the Family
Child Bereavement Network
Cruse Bereavement Care
The Child Bereavement Charity
ChildLine: 0800 1111 (24-hour helpline)
Samaritans: 116 123 (24-hour helpline)
At ISCA Funerals, we understand how difficult it can be to cope with the loss of someone close to you, for both children and adults. That is why we do everything we can to help take care of the arrangements and alleviate the stress of planning a funeral or cremation service.
We are a family-run business, offering a friendly, caring and comprehensive funeral service that suits your specific needs and requirements. To discuss your options in more detail, or for further information and advice on our funeral services, contact our lovely team today.