Losing a loved one is hard for anyone, but for a child/young person the feelings are even more intense. Children/ Young people experience and express their grief differently from grownups. They tend to move in and out of grief and symptoms can come and go especially through life’s milestones such as starting school, graduating, getting married or buying a house.
Having less experience in dealing with crisis, their coping skills are a lot simpler. Therefore the child/young person will need accurate, factual information with the freedom to ask question and to express their feelings. They should be included in the decision making process and will need time to explore and come to terms with the meaning of their loss. Here are some tips to help a child in deal with the process of loss.
1) Get Support for you
Firstly, if you are the one dealing with the loss as well, then it is important that you have a support structure in place. Supporting a child/young person can be extremely demanding and can be emotionally and mentally draining therefore having people to support you is crucial. Its ok to not be able to manage everything, at the time of such a huge change.
2) Be Open and Honest
Speak to the child/young person openly and honestly. Answer their questions, even if you may find the questions quite hard to answer. Explain death to the child/young person using real words such as ‘died’ rather than ‘gone with the stars.’ Explain the circle of life and talk to them about how you feel so that they can learn from your feelings, that it is ok to be angry, sad, hurt and scared.
3) Be Patient
Give the child/young person time and space to come and talk to you about their feelings of loss. As hard as it may be try not to push them, but instead gently encourage them when possible. Give them lots of reassurance letting them know where you are, if they want to talk to you. You will find that by doing this, it will increase the quality of your interaction with each other.
Children feel safer with boundaries and at the end of the day a child is still a child. They still need boundaries and need to be told off in regards to unacceptable behaviour. Don’t be afraid to reinforce rules. This teaches them to control their feelings and be in charge of them rather than letting their emotions control them.
Children like routine and after a loss of a loved one, a routine is even more important. It shows the child that life still goes on, while making them feel safe and secure at the same time. Try to keep as much to their original routine as possible.
6) Memorial Service
A memory box is always a good idea and gives a child/young person something to remember the person by. Give the child/young person a box and tell them to put things in there that remind them of that person. They can then keep the box safe and go back to it whenever they feel. To make it even more personal, allow them to decorate the box to how they wish.