When a family member or friend passes away, it can be difficult to know how to guide your child through it. Depending on their age, they may not understand, or they might react out of the norm. Knowing how to act around your child will help them through their grief, even if they seem like they are fine.
Understand your own loss
Before you can properly look after your child, you need to prepare for what you will go through. Accept that you will encounter moments of utter sadness and that it is OK to express these. Remember the seven stages of grief –
- . Shock
- . Guilt
- . Anger
- . Depression
- . An upward turn
- . Reconstruction
- . Acceptance
Knowing what you’re up against will make it easier for you to handle your emotions and be there for your little one. When it comes to the handling of the funeral and the will, allow others to help out. Seek out professional solicitors to handle the will writing and let friends and family help with funeral arrangements to make the process as simple as possible, allowing you to focus on you and your family’s grieving process.
Answer their difficult questions
As a parent, you want to protect your child from the cruelty of the world. When it comes to death, however, there is no way of doing this, so you should be open and honest with them rather than shying away from their questions. Of course, this doesn’t mean providing them with all the details about the death, but accepting their curiosity. Don’t let the passing of a loved one hang over you without speaking about it – open conversation will make the whole ordeal much more manageable.
Host a small memorial
If your child is too young to attend a funeral, or you decide that they would be better not going, hosting a small memorial for your little one to say goodbye will give them much-needed closure. You could plant a tree in your loved one’s memory, or even simply take an hour to sit in one of their favourite places and talk about them. Let your child speak freely, give them space if they want to speak privately, and allow them to come to terms with saying goodbye.
Talk about the person
Keep your deceased loved one alive by talking about them to your child. Remind your little one that just because they are gone doesn’t mean that their memories aren’t important. Reminisce together about the deceased, and find moments to laugh, showing your child that death isn’t all darkness.
Encourage expression of feelings
Everybody deals with death differently. When it comes to children, expressions may come in many forms. If you find that your child is quieter than usual, or maybe angrier than usual, let them know that it is OK and that they are allowed to have their moments. Don’t be too strict when it comes to bad behaviour – try to get to the root cause of it rather than telling them that expressing their emotions is wrong.
Keep a routine
Your child needs to feel a sense of normalcy after a death, and sticking to your usual routine is a way of doing that. Some off days are, of course, understandable, but try your best to get up at your ordinary time and do the things you usually do in the day. If your young one needs a few days off school, allow that, but encourage them to go back as soon as they can.
Dealing with death is a hard thing at any age, but it can be especially confusing for children. Allowing them to express themselves, speak openly, and keep some normalcy in their lives will let them grieve and come to understand death in a healthy way.