Dealing with a Childs Grief
I recently attended a funeral where the deceased was only young, 40 years old, and left behind two beautiful young children. He was a single man and had full custody of the children who had barely seen their mother over the past 8 years. His family has rallied around, trying to make this very unnatural (I mean the fact a child is parentless at 8 & 9 years old), sad and extremely unfair situation, into some form of reality for these beautiful children.
I began thinking about my own children and how they would cope in a horrible situation involving loss. A child’s grief is often magnified and it is the small things that need to be monitored. A loss for a child can be the family pet or a favourite security blanket. Teaching resilience is one thing but actually having to put all that you have learned into action is another story. Dealing with a child’s grief is difficult and understanding how to cope with it, is not an everyday situation. A child may grieve in many ways, being the one they can grieve with makes this period easier for the child.
Here is 5 ways to teach your child how to cope in circumstances when it seems everything is falling apart:
- Allow the child to feel whatever emotion they need to. Many will feel angry at the world for the card they have been dealt. Some will feel guilty that they should have done more. Some will feel guilty when they are feeling happy instead of sad. Everyone copes with tragedy in different ways and so do their emotions.
- Understand there is no right or wrong way to behave when life is thrown into turmoil. If the child becomes quiet, that is OK. If the child becomes aggressive, that is their way of coping. No matter how the child’s behaviour alters, they are not wrong. It is up to the adult to monitor the behaviour and seek assistance when necessary.
- Don’t assume a child understands the grief they are experiencing, even older children. In such extreme situations, many children either tune out or digress into immature behaviour. It can be their lack of understanding the situation and their emotions that will take time for them to process.
- Encourage children to ask questions, any questions (not always about the situation either) as this will aid in the process of grieving. Do not tell the child a lie or a half truth when asked a question, simply tell them age appropriate answers. If they continue to ask, continue to talk with them.
- Finally, get as much help as you can. Most of us are not experienced to deal with these situations (especially where children are concerned), so enlist your support crew, everyone from counsellors to extended family and friends.