Grief in children is often expressed differently to grief in adults – understanding the process for children will help you to help them. A child’s behaviour during bereavement can be confusing. One moment they may be crying and the next playing happily. Children have their own ways of processing and expressing their pain and will need the support of adults during this time.
To start, it is important to provide a clear and honest explanation of death. This explanation should also be age-appropriate. Try to use the word “death’” rather than phrases such as ‘‘gone to sleep’’ or ‘’gone to a better place’’. These phrases can cause confusion for young children and can lead to unnecessary anxiety. It is important for children to know that once someone dies they are unable to come back.
Explain what will happen next. Life without an important person can cause many changes in a childs routine. It is best to let them know as soon as possible what will be happening and keep routines as similar to before the loss as possible. This should help keep some stability and structure in the child’s life.
Encourage the child to share positive things about the person who has passed. Create a memorial for the person who has died in order to keep memories alive and help the child come to terms with the event. Although it is important for the child to know they are allowed to be sad, it is also important for them to know death is a natural part of life and things will be ok.
In conclusion, helping children through grief is more about healthy coping techniques not avoiding pain. Don’t try and stop your child from crying or thinking about the event. Instead provide a listening ear, let them express their emotions and ask questions. Share your own emotions with the child so that they know they are not alone in what they are feeling.