Dr. Erik Fisher answered:The following are guidelines to help your child cope with the death of a loved one:
The following are guidelines to help your child cope with the death of a loved one: It is important after a death to re-establish structure and stability. Kids respond much better to this. If everyone's world falls apart and there is no... More
- It is important after a death to re-establish structure and stability. Kids respond much better to this. If everyone's world falls apart and there is no structure, this can feel scary to kids and they may act up even more.
- Know that your children's reactions are often not because of you. You are still responsible for your actions. Don't blame your and their actions on others, but help them understand that grief may be a reason for their behaviors.
- If you do "lose your cool" with your kids regardless of their behavior, take responsibility for it and make efforts to change it.
- When you talk to your kids about their emotions, especially around death, don't expect them to answer you when you want or how you want.
- Know that your kids are having a hard time understanding their emotions and what death means to them and others.
- Know that your grief is not their grief.
- Sadness is part of being human, but don't lean on your kids for emotional support. While it is important that they know how you are feeling, they shouldn't be expected to take care of you.
- While it is important to keep the memories of that person alive, don't use that person who has passed as someone who is going to know everything they do and think poorly of them if they misbehave.
- Most importantly, be aware to give your kids and yourself time to process their grief, their way and you your way.
Kathy Clair-Hayes answered:Young children who have lost a loved one are unlikely to fully understand their loss. Providing simple explanations, addressing misconceptions, and offering patient reassurance can help them better understand and cope with their loss.
- Offer simple, concrete explanations. What does death mean? Be simple and very concrete. "Uncle Al was so sick that his heart stopped beating and his body stopped working." Or "Death means everything in the body stops—a person doesn't breathe, walk or talk, or feel hungry, sleepy, scared, or sad." Explain that death is permanent, not reversible. Once a person dies, she cannot come back to life even though we might wish she could. Try not to use phrasing that could be worrisome or misleading. Saying that "Daddy is sleeping" suggests he'll wake up and equates a normal, everyday activity with death. Stating that "We lost Aunt Emily" implies she can be found or that the child, too, could be lost. "God took Jimmy early because he was so good" from a young child's perspective might be understood that "God takes people who are good away from his or her family", so I'm going to be bad so God does not take me.
- Understand magical thinking. Children this age often engage in magical thinking. They may worry that they provoked the death with an angry outburst ("I hate you! I wish you'd die!") or thought. Or they may believe there was something they could have done to prevent the death. Reassure your child that nothing he or she did or didn't do caused the death. You might say, "Some children believe something they did made a death happen. You may worry that something you said or did caused Mommy to die. It's not true. Mommy died because she was very, very sick. Nothing you did, said, or thought made her sick."
Young children who have lost a loved one are unlikely to fully understand their loss. Providing simple explanations, addressing misconceptions, and offering patient reassurance can help them better understand and cope with their loss. Offer... More
- Be patient with repetition. Children may ask the same questions over and over as they try to form an understanding of what has happened. Patiently answering questions—even those that seem upsetting or repetitious—helps them to integrate the words and understanding.
Dr. Charles Sophy answered:
Talk with a child in language he or she can understand. Complex medical terms are less effective than simple language describing the illness or circumstances surrounding the death. Use language that reflects what the child can see, hear, touch, and feel.
Try to confirm that the child understands what you have said. Let the child explain back to you how he or she comprehends what has happened. Then help clarify any areas of confusion or misunderstanding that still exist.
Allow time for a child to express his or her feelings and other grief reactions. Many grief reactions are typically associated with a serious illness or death in the family. These reactions can and should be shared among family members. Very young children may not have words for their grief. As a result, they may express their grief through drawings, behavior, or other means.
Encourage children to ask questions and be prepared to give honest, simple answers. Listen carefully to a child’s questions and try to understand what is being asked, as well as what is not being asked.
As an adult, be a good observer. Look and see how each child is behaving. Don’t rush in with explanations. Usually, it’s more helpful to ask exploring questions than to give quick answers.
Help the child commemorate the life of the person that has died. Sharing memories will help to facilitate healthy grieving. Creative writing, telling stories, planting the loved one’s favorite flowers, and other activities provide healthy outlets for grief and can be ways to maintain happy memories.Talk with a child in language he or she can understand. Complex medical terms are less effective than simple language describing the illness or circumstances surrounding the death. Use language that reflects what the child can see, hear, touch, and... More