It is great if the child is open to talking about her feelings and the importance of those feelings being received openly is vital.
Children & Bereavement
Children need somewhere to go with their grief and if there is no one there to receive these emotions, they disconnect and suppress how they feel. Tell them they can always come to you and receive their feelings warmly or they stop coming to you with their feelings about the death that has occurred.
Children and Grief
A child can manifest a variety of the following responses following a death:
Physical Symptoms following a bereavement
If a child senses it is not okay to talk about the death, where do they go with their feelings and who do they turn too? If there is no one there for them, the child will embody their fears and this will manifest through bedwetting, tummy aches and increased illness. These symptoms may also be your child’s way of seeking attention.
How to deal with Grief Responses:
Emotionally, a child may present with sadness, fears, anxiety, guilt and denial. These are all part of the grieving process and need gentleness, understanding and reassurance. Unconditional love is the best response to these feelings.
Anger following Bereavement
Bereaved children may feel angry, understand and accept this anger for what it is. Explore your child’s feelings and reassure her that she is not responsible for the death.
Bereavement for children needs open communication:
There may be an inability to concentrate and disbelief. Communication and love is crucial here, reassuring the child that this is normal and you are there for them when they need to talk.
Bereavement in children may mean Behaviour Changes:
There can be a variety of responses ranging from: Sleeplessness, loss of appetite, poor grades, crying, nightmares, fighting and clingy. Bereaved children need patience from you and to feel nurtured and listened to.
Children are old enough to grieve, if they are old enough to love.
How to deal with Grief
A child does not have the experience or comprehension to integrate loss into their world. Tell them they will feel many emotions and that all are normal. This is why sharing how you feel encourages your child’s expression of their feelings.
Dealing with Death – Helping bereaved children
You are the person steering them through their grief; yet you may be dealing with your own grief at the same time. Accept the help and support that you need and is available at this time.
Grief support tips for bereaved children:
- Honesty and open communication is crucial.
- Do not cover up. Answer questions truthfully in words they can understand.
- Answer only what is being asked.
- Encourage the expression of feelings, it will minimise the potential for miscommunication.
- If your child does not want to talk, tell her that is okay, but that you are there when they need to talk.
- Children need to be included in the ritual of grief. This is part of the healing process. The option of attending the funeral (if old enough) as it provides closure; there is a finality that is helpful to children.
- Try to follow normal routines as much as possible as it restores a sense of order and security. Avoid making changes that will stress and disrupt further.
- Finally, responding with love over the grieving period is vital, so they know you are there for them and accepting support for you in order to do that.