The death of a loved one is never easy. It can be especially difficult when a child deals with a loss of this nature. We all experience grief in our own way. However, children process the death of a loved one differently than adults.
Key Things to Remember When Comforting a Child
Patience and understanding go a long way when trying to sort things out during this challenging time. This is often the first time a child deals with death and a loved one dying first hand. Helping children deal with loss is an issue that leaves most parents confused. They don’t know what to do or say. This is compounded when the parent is also grieving and at a vulnerable point. Keeping a few things in mind can help both you and your child in the process.
Children will ask lots of questions, sometimes the same one, over and over. Taking the time to listen can be hard when you are grieving as well. Giving a child a chance to voice their thoughts will allow them to get their feelings out. Children aren’t as mature as adults and often verbalize their feelings out loud, rather than process them internally.
Respond to a child’s questions with direct answers. Avoid using phrases that can be confusing to a young child. Telling them that a loved one passed away or went to sleep can cause insecurities and fear. Depending on the age of the child, they may not have fully formed the idea that death is permanent. Answer directly to help your child understand what death means.
No matter what a child does in response to the sad news, let them know that it is going to be okay and that you are there for them. Children may swing from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, crying inconsolably and resuming play with friends or toys a few minutes later. Understand that children are different from adults and are incapable of realizing that some emotions may seem inappropriate at this time.
Above all things, comfort your child. Reassure him or her that you are available for them no matter what they say. The death of a close family member can cause children to feel insecure. It is important to help them overcome these fears and insecurities.
Also, they may demand more of your attention than usual. This can cause stress and frustration while you process your own emotions. It’s okay to let your child know that you are sad too.
Should Children Attend Viewings, Funerals, or Memorials?
Many families are unsure of whether it is appropriate to bring a child to these types of events and ceremonies. While it’s never a good idea to force a child to attend, many children find that it helps them understand the finality and eases them along in the grieving process.
There is not a specific age that children are ready for such things. Every child is different and matures at different rates. You are the best judge of what is right for your children, and you should not feel pressured into anything that feels uncomfortable to you as a parent.
We’ve been here, through this emotional time for many families, and welcome any questions or concerns you may have.