Grief is a normal, whether you are an adult or a child. However, children can find it particularly hard to understand and process what has happened and may not have the coping mechanisms for grief. This can lead to issues at school, whereby difficulty sleeping or concentrating can lead to a lack of enthusiasm for learning.
Helping children with grief is not straightforward. Each child is different and has different emotional needs. The way you help children with grief is very dependent on their needs and development at the time. Children may be faced with unusual feelings that they have not experienced before, which can make it difficult for them to process.
Children can experience grief in much the same way as adults, but here are a few ways to help them cope:
Reassure your child
Reassure them that their reactions are perfectly appropriate and normal. Children often believe they could have prevented the death somehow, so may feel guilty in some way. They need to be reassured that this is not the case.
It might need to be explained to them that there was nothing they could have done to prevent this loss. Everybody dies and it is a natural part of life.
Listen to your child talking about their feelings and memories of the person who died. Allowing them to process this event without being influenced might be a good way to move on. Remembering happy times might be a good way to give some peace to the child.
Euphemisms such as ‘gone to sleep’ or ‘passed away’ could confuse the child, who may think that this is not permanent. Be clear and simple with explanations such as ‘they died because their heart stopped’, which gives facts but does not go into the detail.
Acknowledge the loss
Don’t try and blank out the loss.
Try doing things together that the deceased might have enjoyed, while sharing stories. Talking about happy times can leave positive memories for the child.
Don’t be afraid to get upset yourself. It’s good to show the child that it’s OK to express feelings.
Involve children in the funeral plans
It can be a nice idea for the child to be involved in funeral plans, so that they feel part of the celebration of the deceased’s life. This could be selecting photos of the person, choosing music or helping to add words to the eulogy. The amount of involvement depends on the child’s age and development.
If you need help, get it
Don’t feel that you have to navigate the grieving process of a child by yourself. Contact your GP for assistance if needed. They may be able to refer you to an experienced counsellor or direct you to charities and support services who can help you and your family.
If you need help and support with your funeral or the wider aspects of grief, please do not hesitate to contact us at Archway Funeral Service. We’ll be happy to talk through any concerns you have and the options available to you.