There are few things in life that are harder to explain to a child then death. Too frequently this task falls on a family member already struggling with their own grief.
Nobody likes imagining dealing with a death of a loved one. Unfortunately the odds are high that some point you will face this situation. This may result to the death of a parent, friend, spouse, or even a child. You may be responsible for handling the matters and grief.
When a friend, pet, or relative dies, it’s important to let the child know what has happened so they do not blame themselves and feel this person died because of them. Kids may also grief by misbehaving or becoming withdrawn. A child may need professional help if grieving begins to effect several areas of life, such as schoolwork, family, friendship, health or recreation.
Experts say parents can best help a child though the grieving process by waiting until the child is ready to talk about the loss. Children can often pick of visual clues from they parents.
*** Stages of grief .***
Young children may not see death as “real." This is conformed by cartoon characters who “die” and “come back to life” again. Children ages five and under may be filled with questions about what death is, how it happens, and why it happens. These questions are part of a young child’s grieving process.
The questions of whether a young child should be allowed to attend the funeral and what he should or shouldn’t see- has seen much debate. Generally attending funeral is okay. However a child under seven should not see the deceased. Instead of providing closure this will often traumatize a child resulting in nigh mares and unresolved fears. There is no way to put a length limit on the grieving process. If a child was very close to the person that died, the grieving process will usually take longer. If a child is still greatly consumed by grief after three months, it is time to seek a professional evaluation. It could be that your child just needs more time, or that he may need counseling.
Children ages 12 and under may believe that they are the cause of the death. Children at this age often blame themselves in an attempt to gain some control of this situation. Parents should discuss the cause of the death with their children. This will help the child understand he was not to blame, and could not control the situation
Teens will experience many of the same emotions that are felt by adults. Anger, helplessness, loneliness, denial, and guilt are all common emotions. Their grieving process tends to take longer. Teens are typically aware of death. Though they may not feel it will them to them or to those whom they know. When a death occurs they begin to realize that death can happen to anyone, and will happen to everyone eventually.
Whatever the age of the child, parents should be on the lookout for behavior that my signal a need for professional help in working through the mourning process. Some of these behaviors might include spending increased amount of time alone, lack of appetite, lack of sleep, fear of being alone, and sharp drop in school performance. These behaviors are common for a short period after the loss of someone close. If the behavior continues over several months, or if the behavior seems severe, you will need to consult with a professional.
No one can prepare themselves for a sudden death, but knowing what to expect might make this experience less painful.