Children's grief, like that of adults, is a complex set of emotions that may include fear, anger, despair, agitation, and guilt. While each child grieves differently, the age of the child influences his or her reaction. Children's level of development and religious or cultural background influence their views of death.
Children's ages influence their reactions to death, but even toddlers can sense emotional upset in the family.
Death of a Parent
The death of a parent is probably the most tragic thing that can happen to a youngster. A child whose parent dies needs support for an extended period. Many children react with guilt. The child may think, " I wasn't always good when he wanted me to be", or " I wasn't quiet enough when she was sick. Even infants go through a period of excessive crying and searching for a parent who has died.
Parents should reassure children that, no matter what happens, they will always receive loving care, If asked, parents should talk to their children about who would take care of them int eh very unlikely even of their death.
Children whose parents died or are dying need three things:
*Someone to meet the child's emotional and physical needs.
* Reassurance that they will always be loved and cared for , no matter what happens.
* Explanations that are appropriate for their ages.
Child therapist recommend telling children the truth when death is near and allowing them to say goodbye. Children should be allowed to visit the dying parent.
Some people mistakenly believe that it's best to avid talking about the deceased person. Actually, the opposite is true. When a parent dies, the surviving parent should encourage children to express their grief by drawing pictures or talking. If the child has fears, adults should deal with them. Older children and teens should not be placed in an adult role with adult responsibilities.
Helping Children Cope
By age five, children have had some contact with death, by seeing a dead bird or losing a beloved pet. For example , they may not fully understand what has happened, but they will have reactions to the loss. There are a number of ways that parents can help children cope with the loss of a loved one.
Funeral and memorial services are rituals that allow people to vent feelings and to honor the deceased person. When children want to go, experts believe they should be allowed to attend these services.
Very young children need simple explanations about death, such as the loss of functions like eating, sleeping, thinking , or feeling.
Religious and Spiritual Beliefs
Religion and spiritual beliefs are a source of comfort to many people who have suffered a loss. Beliefs offer explanations and give meaning to life and death. Letting children know that things are the way they are suppose to be, according to the family's spiritual beliefs or faith, can help them feel secure. Parent's should let children know that some pain is part of living and that is will lessen in time.