Losing someone is always tough, but children may find it particularly hard to process. Children often grieve completely differently to adults, so it can be hard to know what to do to support them.
Callum Robertson Funeral Directors’ top priority is that your loved one gets the send-off they deserve so, while you take care of yourself and your family, we’ll take care of everything else. To help ease the weight on your shoulders at this upsetting time, we’ve created a short guide to supporting a child through their grief.
What is grief?
Grief is the process we go through as we come to terms with having lost someone important to us. It’s one of the most subjective human experiences – it affects everyone differently, and countless emotions arise at various points in the process. A grieving person may experience denial, sadness, shock, relief, or even anger.
How is grieving different in children?
Children feel grief and loss but they can’t comprehend or communicate their emotions like adults can, partly because they don’t fully understand death itself. They know it’s bad, and they know they miss their loved one, but they can’t grasp the permanence of it or the magnitude of losing someone.
Adults initially often experience grief consistently, whereas children’s moods will probably fluctuate when grieving. They’ll seem perfectly happy one moment and become very upset the next. They might also experience bursts of denial, or seem unaware that the deceased person isn’t coming back.
Other signs of grief can include:
- Regression into childish behaviours (e.g. baby talk, wetting the bed)
- Sleeping problems
- Academic issues
- Concentration issues
- Acknowledging death when playing (e.g. a stuffed animal dies and comes back to life)
- Behavioural problems
- Feelings of abandonment
Helping a grieving child
Children cannot talk about ‘big feelings’ for a long time, if they can even communicate them at all. When asked how they feel, they may respond with uncertainty or vagueness – for example, they might say they feel strange but be unable to provide any more detail.
The key is to let them guide you – they’ll likely become less overwhelmed if they’re in control. Enjoyable and familiar activities like drawing, looking through photos, writing letters, and reading stories might help them express their grief.
‘Body mapping’ is sometimes used to encourage open communication in children. Asking where they’re hurting after falling over helps children communicate physical feelings – the same applies to emotional or mental afflictions. Saying their heart or head feels bad, for example, might be their way of communicating their grief to you.
Try to help them articulate their questions and reassure them that their feelings are okay. You can’t erase their pain, but you can make them feel safe and help them understand. Avoid euphemisms; instead, be as honest as you can about the situation and your own grief. They’ll take comfort in the shared experience and hopefully realise grief is normal. Encouraging emotional awareness and honest communication will also equip them with invaluable coping skills for the future.
We know funeral planning might be the last thing on your mind right now. Callum Robertson Funeral Directors are here to help you however we can, so that you can say goodbye to your loved one your way. If you’re in need of funeral services, contact us today for more information.