At some point in your lifetime you are certain to be faced with the death of someone that you love. Your children are also likely to suffer losing someone that they care about. Death is unavoidable and children are especially affected when they lose someone close to them. Helping your child deal with the death of a loved one is important. Children will often hold back tears because they seldom see their parents cry. If you are mourning over losing a loved one, your child should see you mourn. You have to allow children to see that crying is okay and that mourning is a natural part of life.
Often the first experience with death for a child involves a pet. Many children however lose parents, grandparents and even siblings during their youth. In recent years, many children have lost classmates due to tragedies and allowing your child to mourn is critical for his or her healing. Never underestimate the sadness that your child may be feeling. Show respect by allowing your child to grieve and even grieve with them.
Many parents do not believe in allowing children to attend funeral services and burials. This however can be a crucial part of the healing process. Ask your child if he or she wants to attend the service. Not allowing them to go because you feel that you are protecting them can actually do more harm than good. Leave the decision on whether or not they go completely up to them and support them in their decision. Seeing other people grieve will help your child to heal from their loss.
Talk about what happened. In the cases where children were lost in a school shooting or other tragedy, talking to them was critical. Even if the loss was expected, allowing your child to discuss his or her feelings is therapeutic. You can share memories with your child about this person, particularly if the loss is a grandparent or other family member. For younger children it is important that you stress that death is completely natural, but that does not mean that they will soon lose someone else that they love. Younger children tend to become frightened by death and may feel that they will soon be losing their parents or other loved ones. Be sure that you reassure them that you are not going away anytime soon.
Most of all, allow your child to express his or her feelings. Teenagers are very closed in sometimes, particularly when dealing with grief. Allow them to express how they feel, even to the point of showing anger if those are their true feelings. Encourage them to speak their minds or even write their thoughts down in a journal. Smaller children can make a scrapbook or picture album of their lost loved one which will help them to remember special moments with that person.
Children, particularly younger children, view death as a frightening and foreboding concept. If your child has recently lost someone close to them, they will need love, support and comfort to get through this tragic event. Be there for them and remember that children will deal with death in different ways. You may notice that one child clings to you while another prefers to be alone with his or her feelings. Let them have their space and simply be there for them whenever they need you to be.