How to Support When A Family Member Dies
Death is final. Young children do not understand the idea of death but they do feel the pain. The challenge is often young children do not express their pain as adults do. This makes caring for and supporting a grieving child to be a confusing challenge for some caregivers. This post offers you a clearer understanding of how grief and loss impacts younger children so that you can be a stronger support. But, we start by recognising that there are many other ways children in your life and around you are dealing with some degree of loss. Can you help them? Yes. Read and watch: learn how to.
Types Of Loss and Grief Children Experience
Loss of a parent – divorce or separation
Death of a parent, sibling or family member
Loss or death of a family pet
Loss of opportunity to share future life milestones with their lost loved one.
Loss of familiarity and belonging in community when families move
Loss of connection to a friend because of distance or conflict in relationship
Loss of togetherness of family for special events post divorce
Foster kids lose the sense of identity and family practices from birth families
Access to memorable objects that are left behind or destroyed
The Tasks of Grief Recovery
Healing through the grief process is a complicated journey, but experts have identified that along the journey there are 4 key challenges many will face.
T = To Accept the reality of the loss
E – Experience the pain of the loss
A = Adjust to the new environment without the person
R = Reinvest in the new reality
Children Talking about Grieving After Death of Family Member
A wonderfully produced video produced by CBS station, hosted by Katie Couric. If you don’t know her story Katie’s husband died when her children were still very young. She, like many others, had to grow to learn how to survive through her own pain while supporting her children.
Key Learnings from Video on How to Support Children after a Death
- Its not possible, as a parent, to protect children from ever feeling pain.
- 1/20 children will lose at least 1 parent or sibling by the time they are 15 years old
- Children want an answer for “where did the deceased loved one go?” Very young children struggle to understand the finality of death.
- Children need to be told the truth. Use the hard “D-Word”. The person has died, s/he is dead. Avoid language like “passed”, “gone to sleep and didn’t wake up”, “lost”, etc.
- Understand that children have a range of emotional reactions to death. They will express sadness, they will express anger, confusion, and even “the appearance of happiness”. Dr Silverman states that children may laugh or smile, in what she calls the “fear-grin” reaction, they are frightened but do not know how to express it.
Recommended Storybooks for Parents To Read with Children
As a child therapist I often use storybooks in my play therapy practise to help kids understand the language around death, normalise different feelings, and identify ways to think about the loss and cope better. I am sharing with you three of my favourites in the bereavement theme. You can make a quick purchase from Amazon by clicking on picture.
Why You Might Want to Get Counselling for A Child
When a family member dies, the adults in the family may be overwhelmed by their own grief and experience great difficulty in whole-heartedly supporting a child too. It might be a benefit for your child to have a neutral party to come alongside and walk with them through their grief journey. A professional counsellor will not be triggered emotionally by the child’s emotions and behaviour, and have the skills and tools to engage a child at their developmental level.
Help for Families Canada offers guidance and support for children, teens, and families as they travel through the journey from pain to peaceful acceptance. You can read more about our child counselling services. If you’d like to talk with us, book online your free phone call (see yellow link in right side bar).