How To Help Your Child Deal With Death

Death can be difficult to deal with, especially when one is a child. But you can actually help your child through the process.
How to help your child deal with death

Although death is a natural part of life, it hurts when someone we care about dies. With children, we need to help them deal with death and express the grief they feel.

Death is a part of life. When we have become attached to someone we love who dies, it affects everyone who loved that person. Helping your child deal with death can be difficult because they do not understand the significance of the loss. And they need us to help them understand that they must express their feelings without fear.

The concept, death, depends on age

Parents quarrel behind child

The meaning of death changes as the child grows older.

A child’s understanding of the meaning of death depends on their age. For a baby up to 2 years old, the child only experiences the absence of the deceased person. After 3 years, children may think that death is temporary and can be reversed. Between the ages of 5 and 6, they can understand that it is permanent, and they understand the difference between life and death.

They know that people can die, but it is not until they turn 8 or 9 that they discover that they too can die. After the age of 10, they can fully understand the meaning of death.

Children’s reaction to death

Sad child

Children respond based on what they see in their family.

When a child has to admit that one of their loved ones is dead, their reaction will vary depending on the reactions they see in the rest of the family. 

In families that talk openly about the topic, the child will have the opportunity to express their pain and grief. In families where death is taboo, it will be harder for the child to recognize because they do not know how to express what they are feeling.

Some children may express their pain through silence, while others show their grief. On the other hand, some may react uncontrollably and defiantly. There may also be signs of emotional confinement, anxiety, anger and depression. It will also depend on the relationship the child had with the deceased relative.

Depending on the age of the child, the reactions to death can also show up in school. Problems such as lack of concentration can occur, memory problems (forgetfulness is common), and school performance may decline.

Methods to help your child deal with death

Just as the age of the child influences how they can handle death, so it is just how close they were to the deceased. The death of a grandfather, grandmother, uncle or cousin is not as traumatic as the death of a parent or brother.

But where possible,  it is important to help them realize death, express their pain, and begin the grieving process so that they can overcome the loss of the one they loved.

Let them know as soon as possible

There is no perfect time to tell them that a loved one is dead. This should be done as soon as possible to help the child deal with the death of someone they care about.

If it is the mother or father who has died, it is best if the surviving parent tells the news. If it is too painful for you, the responsibility may need to be given to another close relative.

Avoid beautiful paintings when the child has to deal with death

Do not say that grandmother “passed away”. Children must be clearly aware that death is final. Answer all the child’s questions in the most natural and calm way possible. Use appropriate language for their age, you need to make sure the child understands.

You do not have to provide the child with information he or she has not requested. If it’s an elderly or sick person, explain that we all die when we grow old. You can also explain, in the case of an accident, that what happened destroyed the body of the deceased.

Allow them to express emotions when they have to learn to deal with death

Mom scolds crying girl

Letting the child express his feelings will help them deal with the death of a relative.

When a father or mother dies, a great emptiness is created. The surviving parent should try to accommodate all the emotional needs of the child when they receive the news, or at the funeral. In other words, the baby may need your shoulder to cry on.

Others will need to speak. They may well play or be hyperactive at the funeral. Let them play freely. It is possible that play can distract them from overwhelming emotions.

Avoid being overprotective

Some parents believe that they should protect their children from death. They are not allowed to attend funerals nor cry or talk about the deceased. They even fabricate stories about death to seemingly protect children from pain.

Despite the good intentions, it does not help the children. Children need to express their feelings and talk about how much they miss the one who is dead.

Express your own grief

It is healthy for your child to see you grieve over the loss of your loved ones. Seeing you openly express the pain that overwhelms you will help them to show how they feel about losing a loved one. If you are able to show your own feelings, it is a way to help your children deal with the death of a loved one.

Crying is necessary and natural when you feel such great pain over the loss of someone you loved. What you need to be aware of is not to scare your children. Children should not see you collapse, because then they may be worried that they will lose you too. The way you handle your pain will help them recover from the loss.

Saying goodbye is necessary to begin the grieving process, and it helps deal with death

Children write letters

Writing a letter is a great way to help a child deal with the death of a relative.

Whether the child should attend the funeral of a close relative depends on the family and the child. If they are old enough, it is important to explain what happens at a funeral. The child can choose whether it wants to participate or not, and that’s okay.

Children who choose to attend a funeral may want to go at some point. Respect their decision, do not force them to stay there. In such cases, it is good if you can make an appointment with someone that both you and your child trust so they can go whenever they want.

Either way, try to let your child say goodbye. If the child does not want to attend the funeral, they can do so by writing a letter. They can also visit a burial site at a later date.

Saying goodbye is necessary to begin the grieving process, and it helps children deal with death, but it does not have to take place in front of the corpse of the deceased relative.

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