Death is an ever present cycle of life that leaves desolation, dismay and endless unanswerable questions in its wake when it strikes. Adults have a hard enough time coming to terms with it which should be enough for you as a parent to know that it can be as hard or even worse for a child.
The sudden changes that come with losing someone close to them like a friend or a family member can be hard for a child to cope with. Here are a few tips on how to help your child handle the grieving process:
Be open about death
People avoid talking about death like the plague but for a parent, you are responsible for your child. Don’t think that not talking about it is in their good interest, unpleasant as it is, look for a way to tell them.
For instance, you can allude to a dead pet or plants while explaining the cycle of life. Constantly visit with their grandparents or other elderly people to show them it is okay to age and eventually die.
When death strikes close to home, avoid telling them that their friend or relative “went to sleep” or “went away”. Be straightforward, tell them they died and proceed to explain what that means if they don’t understand. That way, you won’t face endless questions about when grandpa or aunt will visit or why they stopped coming around.
Do not delay
Most parents avoid the aftermath of sorrow that follows such news therefore postpone telling their children about death. What happens if they overhear someone talking about it? How will you break the news to them? Be there for your child as hearing it from you will be less frightening, they will be able to share their heartbreak with you.
The questions that accompany such news might be endless as curiosity and a need to understand can lead to the outburst. If your child is in this category of always digging deeper for answers, be ready for them. Let them know what they want gently but clearly and explain to them that you don’t have all the answers where you get stuck.
Death is a scary issue moreso for children therefore; you want to shield your child as much as possible when the need arises. For instance, if there is an open casket funeral, ask your child if they are comfortable with the idea of seeing a dead body.
If they are, appease their wish as the fear of seeing their loved one dead might haunt them for a long time. However for some people and children, this might be a good way to say goodbye but to others, they’d rather remember them alive.
Thus, respect your child’s sentiments by reassuring them and making them understand that it is okay not to want to take a last look.
Grieve with them
Most parents want to present a strong front for their kids by grieving in the privacy of closed doors and never in front of them. This is the wrong approach as it will pressure the kids into thinking they should hide their feelings too.
To make them understand that it is acceptable, cry with them during such a difficult time. Show them that emotional pain is part of losing a loved one; you will find that they will comfort you as much as you comfort them.
Afterwards, always talk and remember the deceased by sharing funny times and stories and looking through photo albums to reminisce. Your child will grow up knowing that death is a cycle of life that is imminent and can be dealt with in an openmanner.