Bereavement is something that young children don’t understand. Unlike adult humans, children are unaware of this harsh reality of life of losing a loved one. Therefore, when a little child loses one of their parents, they are unable to cope with the situation and have a hard time understanding this reality. To children, their parents are everything, and losing any one of them means outbreak of calamity in their little world. Young children also don’t have many distractions, so they end up getting majorly affected.
So, how do you help a child understand and get through with this kind of loss? Let’s take a look!
What a Child Feels when a Parent Dies
Children don’t know that something like death exists. It is too complicated for them to understand what it really is. They have only seen death in cartoons or television shows, in which the character usually comes back to life. Therefore, it is extremely hard for a child to handle death of a parent who they are most attached to. If one of the parent’s passes away, a child will believe it to be a sleep-like state, hoping they’d come back to life just like in cartoons that they have watched. However, it is important for your child to understand the concept of death so that they are able to cope with it in a better way.
Your child should be able to differentiate between fantasy and reality. If they keep assuming that death is a sleep-like state, they will not be able to comprehend it. When they understand that it is a reality of life, their minds and hearts will accept it much easily.
Supporting a Grieving Child
Since death is a new concept for children, and when one of their parents dies, they are unable to gulp this hard reality. That’s the reason they will be extremely anxious and would want to ask you several questions. They might want to know what happened or will the departed parent return or not. This is the time when you need to sit down with your child and make them understand what death really means. However, make sure you give out small chunks of information in simple words or else your child will be stressed. It will take time for them to process this information, so make sure you give it away bit by bit.
Do not hide the truth from your child; instead, sit with them and tell them the reality. If you think that hiding things would make them feel less scared, then you are wrong. Childhood is the stage when humans are most curious to know about things; that is why you need to them tell this truth and make them understand it in a good way.
Because children spend most of their time with their parents, it becomes really complicated for them to live without one of them. Therefore, it is the other parent’s responsibility to make the grieving child feel comfortable. Your child will need your full support during these days. Keep them close to you, pamper them, and make them feel relaxed. Tell them it’s okay and it is a part of life. Read them stories and keep them busy. Take them out for lunch and dinner, and keep them busy all day long.
Keep the Memories Alive
Death doesn’t have to mean wiping away all the memories of the departed one. Try to keep your child engaged in everyday activities, but don’t try to make them forget about their deceased parent. Keep the memories of the deceased alive by sharing happy moments with each other. Tell them a good memory of the late parent on the dinner table. This is a good way to not only cheer up everyone, but keep the parent’s memories alive as well. You can also make a memory box for your child. Add pictures of the deceased parent in the memory box and hand it over to your child so that they can cherish all the special moments they shared with their departed parent.
Communicate with your Child
It can be quite hard to communicate with a grieving child, but it is an essential step in making them feel alright. Your child might not want to talk, but try to make them feel that it is okay to talk. If your child was more attached to the lost parent, then you have to take their place. Sit and talk to your child. Tell them that you will be by their side no matter what happens. Tell them to share their feelings with you, and politely explain to them what death is like. You can also tell them that the passed away parent is in a better place.
Tell them that they are looking at us from the sky. Storytelling is a great way to make your child feel better. Your main focus should be to connect and communicate with your child. When they share their feelings, you get a chance to help them cope with the loss.
Every child has a different way of grieving. Some might be open to sharing their feelings with the other parent while others just want to stay alone. It is better to let your child choose what they want. The children who are avoiding their other parent and not sharing their feelings are the ones who have a hard time coping with the grief of the lost parent. You can also get in touch with a therapist to help your child become normal again. A child will feel more comfortable and relaxed in a new environment where they know no one will be judging them.
The other parent should also get in touch with relatives to help with the grieving process. They should also talk to their child’s school to offer complete support to their child in this time of difficulty.