To children (and even to most adults), death looks superficial until it happens to someone close to them. Such a sudden occurrence and one that they cannot fully comprehend leads them to process it differently. Yet, it is crucial for parents and guardians to build healthy coping mechanisms in kids.
Here are ways parents and guardians can help children deal with grief;
The way a child reacts after hearing about the death of someone close is unique to them. Some wail, others cry, some ask questions, others don’t, while others show no emotion. The latter does not mean that they are not affected by the news.
The best thing you can do is listen to them. The child could be acting in all sorts of ways because they are trying to understand what death means. Listen to them and be their comforting ear.
Most children must have either heard or read about death before such a huge blow ever happens. These could be through the books they read, the stories they hear, or the movies they watch. You can help them cope by reading to them books about death. Other ways include speaking about the person who died and allowing them to cry or vent out in an environment they feel comfortable.
Besides, encourage them to say what they are feeling. While doing so, let them know that it is okay to feel sad and confused after learning about such sad news. Doing this will make it easy for them to express themselves, helping you understand better how to help them cope.
It is important to use simple words that children will understand without bringing forth more questions. However, your choice of words and the depth you will go in revealing information to them depends on their age and how close they were to the dead person.
For instance, most adults tell children that the person ‘went to sleep’ or ‘went on a long journey’. While these could be comforting to you, saying these to a child could make them scared of falling asleep as they believe they too may never wake up.
If you can, prepare them by telling them a story of what death is and where people go after death. Break the news to them and give them a sense of everlasting presence by telling them about the person watching over them.
Be blunt about what to expect after the burial. Find simple and comforting words to tell them that the person is never coming back. Let them know the changes to routine. For instance, if it is their mom who was taking them to school, let them now that it will be someone else doing so. If they used to visit their grandmother every 2 weeks, let them know why they can no longer see grandma. Being honest in a kind way clears any questions in their mind and helps you reassure them over time.
Do you know of other ways of helping children deal with grief? Comment below.