The way a child deals with grief is as individual as the child themselves, regardless of the severity of the loss. And the way kids deal with loss can affect their relationships and their daily lives. That’s why parents and loved ones need to know the ways they can comfort children in grief. Worry not, we’ll talk about that in this article, as well as whether you should take them with you to the funeral.
Children express their sorrow after a loss in numerous ways. Common losses, such as starting a new school or having a friend move away, may impact some people more than others. The loss of a parent, for example, is much more devastating.
It can be challenging for adults to read a child’s expressions of grief and respond in kind. It can be difficult to understand how a child is grieving after a loss because their emotions will likely manifest uniquely.
My children suffered an unfathomable loss in October 2017 when their father, my husband, passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. Two and four years old at the time, my kids took the news of his death in very different ways. Even now, many years after their father’s death, each of his children deals with the tragedy uniquely. I’ve had to train myself to identify how people show their sorrow and formulate appropriate responses. A child’s loss can be eased in five different ways.
1. Always be honest and open.
Most adults either don’t acknowledge or try to minimize a child’s sadness. Some adults may feel they are protecting their children from harm if they keep them from experiencing loss. A negative impact is possible from doing this.
Adults should use straightforward language that is age and developmentally-appropriate when explaining the loss to children. When explaining death to my kids, I made sure to use age-appropriate phrases like “Daddy went to live with Jesus in heaven.” Younger children, who may have a more limited understanding of loss, may require repeated explanations.
Permit your kids to inquire at their rate. Children may not be ready to talk about it for several days, weeks, months, or even years. Just be straightforward and honest in your responses. Make sure each kid knows that you’ll talk to them about it when the time is right if the subject comes up and you’re unable to address it right away. However, do your best to continue the conversation as soon as possible. Also, it’s fine to admit that you don’t know everything. If no one else seems to know the answer, you can always say, “This is what I think.”
2. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of grief.
Children’s reactions to hearing about a death vary widely. Younger kids, in particular, may just want to run around and have fun. Not a problem. This in no way indicates that they are emotionless or disrespectful. They are unable to deal with their sorrow at that time. Children’s reactions to loss will vary from those of their parents and siblings.
Some people may want to open up about their grief, while others may want to keep quiet. Some kids will be eager to join in the fun, while others might prefer to stay inside. Younger children may become overprotective or anxious, while older teens may withdraw socially or prefer to spend time with their peer group exclusively. When interacting with grieving children, it is important to be sensitive to the variety of ways they may express their sorrow.
It’s important to remember that children grieve at their own pace. Following my husband’s (her father’s) passing, my daughter and I shared our sorrow. She was only four years old when he passed away, but she knew his death was final. It helped that our mourning occurred at roughly the same time. On the other hand, my son was only two when his father passed away, so he could not understand the meaning of death. After nearly three years, I can now recognize his grief symptoms. It’s as if he’s only just started grieving now that he has a better grasp on how much he lost.
3. Openly discuss the person they lost.
It’s natural to want to protect your child from further distress by avoiding any discussion of the deceased. This is quite typical. On the other hand, it’s best to allow kids as much time as they need to grieve and talk about their loved ones. Give them your undivided attention as they express their grief over the loss of a loved one. Feel free to inquire about their deceased family member by asking:
- If you could do anything as a couple, what would it be?
- Can you describe the one thing you’ll miss?
- Do you have a favorite way to think about him?
Listen carefully as your children express their feelings and thoughts about their loss. Some children may have difficulty expressing their emotions openly. Similarly, it may be challenging for kids to convey the range of feelings they’re experiencing adequately. Give them time to talk and help them out if they seem to be having trouble communicating.
Activities and keepsakes can help kids keep loved ones close to their hearts even after they are no longer physically present. They could, for instance, put together a scrapbook in memory of their lost one. There’s a good chance that a teen will want to express his or her grief through creative writing.
I had teddy bears made out of my late husband’s button-down shirts for my young kids. I also had each of my kids’ fathers put together a photo album for them to give to their kids. My children would look through their photo albums each night before bed, and they still do so today.
Particularly for younger children, stories serve as a powerful tool for education. Children of all ages can benefit from the many wonderful books that address the topic of loss.
4. Be as reliable as you can with your daily routine.
Children do better with a set routine. When a child loses a loved one, their entire world can seem to have turned upside down, and they need the stability that structure provides. Try to maintain as regular a schedule as possible, including daily, weekly, and monthly activities.
After such a devastating loss, life as we know it must change forever. Make an effort to start some new customs as a family while going through this tough time. As a widow, I was unable to take my children to our usual vacation spot after my husband passed away. That’s why I went and discovered a brand new summer vacation spot. We moved on to making new memories as a family, but we couldn’t help but think that their dad would enjoy this new destination.
The importance of having well-defined goals and expectations must be balanced. Children’s reactions to grief can vary. Child grief often manifests itself in defiance, aggression, and anger. Misbehavior is never acceptable, but it is helpful to recognize and try to understand that it is a reaction to grief. Get across to your kids that they still have to take some responsibility for their behavior. If a child displays unacceptable behavior, be prepared to follow through with the consequences you would normally impose.
5. Get help for the kids who are grieving.
Last but not least, try your hardest to locate aid for young victims of loss. In the face of loss, even close friends and family members can feel like an off-limits topic for some children. It could be they’re too shy to say anything. Maybe they worry that if they express their sadness, it will only add to their pain. It’s important to give your kids a safe place to talk about how they feel after the loss.
Grief counseling for kids can be found in a few different settings. Grief counseling is the first option. All over the country, you can find grief and bereavement centers that provide low-cost or even free group therapy for kids who have experienced loss. Grief counseling is another option. A child can benefit from individual therapy with a trained grief counselor. This is especially useful if a child needs individualized care because he or she is showing signs of depression or regression.
6. Take Time to Nurture Your Own Well-Being
If your kid or kids are grieving, chances are you are, too. Don’t neglect your own needs and feelings of loss. If you need help working through your emotions, it may be helpful to connect with a grief support group or talk to a therapist. You’ll feel better and be able to help your kids through their grief if you do this.
Coping with a loss is neither simple nor quick. For children, processing their grief can take time, possibly months, years, or even decades. Keep in mind that there is no set amount of time for mourning. Be understanding and kind as you help kids work through their grief in their own time.
You should never be too proud to ask for assistance. Contact a trusted friend, your church, a grief support group, or your child’s doctor if you or your child feel you or they need additional support. People care about you and your child and want to help you get through this difficult time.
Keep in mind, above all else, that kids can bounce back from a lot. Providing them with the resources they need to recover increases the likelihood that they will start to feel better and, in time, recover their strength and hope.
Should toddlers be allowed to attend funerals?
This is a typical but crucial question for parents, and the answer depends less on your child’s age than on their maturity and how you communicate with them. If you lose someone close to your toddler, you may want to consider accompanying your child to the funeral. When making a decision, consider the following criteria.
Make an effort to observe your toddler’s actions.
The mannerisms of your infant are a crucial factor to take into account as well. It is less likely that your child will be disruptive at a funeral if they can sit quietly and quietly for extended periods. It’s generally best to hire a sitter if your child is hyperactive or obstinate when bored.
First and foremost, you should show consideration for the bereaved family. When it comes to a toddler’s naturally exuberant behavior, your own family is more likely to be accommodating than a coworker’s family.
It’s possible, though, that other children will be there or that youngsters are required to participate in ceremonies around life and death (culturally or otherwise). You can make a big difference in your decision-making by making a few phone calls to people you know attending.
Consider Other People’s Behaviour
Your child’s behavior isn’t the only thing you should keep an eye on. While funerals can be serious and contemplative, they are also occasions where individuals are understandably overcome by their feelings of grief and loss.
A lot of people are going to be sobbing, and some of them will be crying openly and saying things that your toddler might find terrifying. The funeral may not be the greatest place for your toddler if you know they are susceptible to others’ feelings. Start talking about it as soon as possible if you don’t know how your child will respond.
Attending a Funeral with a Toddler
As soon as feasible, bring up the subject of death. If you’re worried about bursting into tears because you’re feeling overly emotional, wait until you’ve had some time to grieve before engaging in a dialogue.
Because these things take time and your toddler needs to know that it’s OK to be sad about death and loss, you shouldn’t try to wait until all or most of your grief has subsided before you begin talking to your child. Make an effort to comprehend your child’s current level of comprehension. If you can, draw inspiration from similar scenarios; if not, start from scratch.
Explain death in the most basic terms possible. (As an illustration, you may remark, “A family member of Mommy’s has passed away. That means she’s no longer here, and we won’t be able to find her again “( 1. Be as specific as possible and steer clear of ambiguous terminology (such as “passed on,” “expired,” or “departed”).
It’s best not to inform young children that the deceased has gone to sleep or that they will never wake up again.
Sleep is such an integral part of your child’s existence may cause them to fear that they or you will go to sleep and never wake up. It’s fine to put the subject of death on the back burner for the time being and bring it up again if your toddler asks any more probing inquiries.
If it doesn’t seem to be sinking in, don’t keep harping on it or make an effort to elicit a reaction. It’s unlikely that a situation this intricate will be understood right away by a toddler. Keep things basic for the time being, and be on the lookout for ways to provide more clarity in the future.
Discourse on the Ceremonies
You’ll also want to have discussions concerning the event. Let them know what will happen during the funeral, just like you’d talk about a doctor’s appointment or a trip to the fair.
Consider what they will wear, where the service will be held, and who will be in attendance so you can establish a connection with them immediately. Prepare your students for any emotional situations, such as crying or a distressed crowd. Even if you’ve laid out your expectations for how they should act, keep in mind that even in the best-case scenario, a toddler is unpredictable.
To ensure the safety of everyone involved, you should be prepared to remove your child from the service if required. Having a friend or babysitter accompany you to the funeral is an excellent idea if you’re worried about your toddler becoming bored or boisterous during the service.
Consider the length of the service and bring snacks, beverages, and other comfort items. For diapering and potty needs, it’s important to know where the bathrooms are.
Leaving a Toddler at Home.
Don’t panic if you have to leave a toddler at home first. Your kid doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of closure. They won’t see a resolution for months or even years. You’ll have to explain things to them as they get older, especially if the person who died was close to them (like a parent, aunt, or sitter).
The experience of other deaths and losses, major and minor, also aids in the process of closure. A close friend moving away, the death of a pet or a plant, or other life experiences might help a person better comprehend what it means to be grieving.
Start a dialogue with your child as soon as you feel emotionally capable of doing so. However, don’t worry about shedding a few tears. Your youngster must understand that feeling sad is a normal part of life.
Be mindful to address any emotions your child may be experiencing. You shouldn’t count on them to respond how you expect them to.
One of the most prevalent emotions they will express is a longing to be with the deceased and a sense of loss at their loss. However, don’t discourage children from expressing their feelings about the deceased individual, whether it be sad, pleased, or furious.
A short memorial service for your child alone or with other youngsters who knew the dead and didn’t attend a funeral is always an option. You may subsequently bring flowers and a card or drawing your child made to the grave, or you could start a new family custom to honor and remember the deceased.
Meaningful articles you might like: Helping Children Express Their Emotions in Three Simple Ways, Assisting Children in Dealing with Their Emotions, How to Teach Social-Emotional Learning for Child Development