When you experience grief as an adult, you may be philosophically comforted by the inevitability of us all moving on even if you don’t know where to or if it’s anywhere at all. But for children, the concept of mortality can be frightening. Children are so dependent on the main people in their lives that the thought of them leaving can be absolutely terrifying.
Explaining to children the concept of death being a rite of passage will feel inadequate to them. Helping children to deal with loss will often require us to overcome our own feelings so we can be pragmatic and available for them, even in situations when our own grief is overwhelming. A failure to do so will leave your children with inadequate resources to comprehend and process a concept that even we as adults can be baffled and debilitated by. The grieving process for a child is different. There is much that they won’t understand. We need to be careful about what to say and what not to say to someone grieving. It is also important that children dealing with loss are not left to fill in the answers by themselves.
Here are some fundamental principles to be aware of when dealing with a child’s grief:
Tell your child immediately lest they hear it from somebody else or in a manner that may cause unnecessary pain. They should hear it directly from you. This is not a responsibility that you can pass on to somebody else. If it’s a grandparent for instance, they may see the association between age and death and if spoken to in a sensitive and supportive way they may be able to gain some comfort from your explanation.
Explain to your child that some of the feelings are perfectly normal and her moods and levels of sadness might fluctuate from time to time. Be very clear about your availability to talk or just listen You should then explain the process that he or she will most likely be a part of. Talk about the funeral service and the importance of saying goodbye. If you feel that some of your beliefs about death might be helpful and not alarming then you should share those also.
Lots of affection and support is important. Using photos, telling nice stories and other forms of memorabilia may make the detachment less absolute. A photo may provide a sense of comfort and connection to slow down the sudden feeling of loss.
If we can help you with some more resources or if we can be a caring person on the other end of the line, call Southern Cross Funeral Directors. We are funeral director in Sydney that is dedicated to supporting you with your grief at this very difficult time. Please don’t hesitate to call our staff if we can be of assistance: