By Damsons, the future planning specialists.
Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy, especially for children, who may not understand why someone they love is no longer around. However, there are some simple things parents and family members can do in order to help that child process this information and help them come to terms with what has happened.
Some children will be familiar with the concept of death having experienced it for the first time when losing a family pet. Whilst this may not be the same in some people’s eyes, for a child it can be a big emotional adjustment. Although, this does provide an opportunity for parents to explain the circle of life, and help increase a child’s understanding of death in order to prepare them for bereavement in later life.
The Child Bereavement Network offers pre-and post-bereavement care which is designed to prepare children for losing a loved one and how to deal with the complex emotions that they may experience during this time.
Every child will deal with bereavement differently but there are some simple things you can do to prepare a child for an up and coming loss to make the journey more manageable:
- Keep to every day routines to instil a sense of normality
- Use books to help you explain the circle of life to younger children
- Explain the situation to their teacher or care provider so they can adapt to behaviour changes
- Encourage teenagers to keep up with their friendships and hobbies
- Talk to them openly about what is happening so that they feel valued and included
How a child will grieve depends on several things, including their age and understanding of the situation. So, parents shouldn’t be alarmed if their child displays a range of different behaviours.
Young children may be feeling sad but may not be able to process why, and so may continue to play as normal. Teenagers may also have their own way of coping and seek solace in peers of a similar age group.
The important thing for parents to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
There are strategies and coping mechanisms that can be put in place to help guide parents and children through this unknown period, and help them to see light at the end of the tunnel.
For many, a funeral marks the first step on the long road in front of them, marking a crucial time for families to accept what has happened and begin adapting to their new life ahead.
Involving children in the funeral plans provides an opportunity for them to say goodbye and remember that person in their own special way.
Other practical things you can do to help:
- Inform the school so that teachers are aware of the home situation. Children of exam age can apply for an application for special consideration.
- There is financial help available for those caring for a bereaved child, including child benefit, widowed parents allowance, guardian allowance and in some cases, a one-off bereavement payment.
- For parents in employment, the ACAS has produced a guide for bereavement in the workplace.
The important thing to remember is you’re not alone. There are many people you or your child can talk to about how you’re feelings, including a range of bereavement services which can be contacted through your GP, local hospice, or the national Cruse helpline, who offer support to children, young people and adults.
It is a parent’s instinct to put their child’s needs first but it’s important that you consider your own feelings too. Whoever you have lost, whether it’s a partner, parent or family friend, you too will need support in order to be there for your child and allow you to also grieve.
Experts suggest that it takes around 18 months for a person to start feeling back to normal again but everyone is different and things will get better. However, if after this time, you’re not coping and perhaps unable to sleep, feel intense emotion, cannot eat or turning to drink, then you should seek the help of your GP who will be able to refer you to a councillor.