Having children tends to envelop your entire being with the need to keep those innocent angels from harm, pain, and sadness at all cost. When they eat, you make sure that their food is easy to digest. If they lose their favorite toy, you want to turn the house inside out to find it or buy a replacement immediately. They are not supposed to go out without you or your spouse either since you don’t want to entrust their safety on anybody else.
Nevertheless, parents cannot shield the children from one of the darkest aspects of life: the death of a loved one, e.g., a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, or family pet. It is something you can never hide from a kid, primarily if he or she grew up seeing the deceased relative or animal.
In case you don’t want the kids to harbor grief for too long, there are ways to help them overcome it.
Deliver The News Simply
The first advice is to avoid sugarcoating the news about the family member or pet that passed away. You may be able to do that when having the sex talk with your teenage kids, but it is better to be direct and honest if informing them about something as serious as death.
You cannot foresee how the youngsters will take in the facts. We have seen hardheaded children weep because their loved one died. Other kids who are usually meek can also put on their brave face and choose to believe that the deceased is happy in heaven now, so they don’t have to cry.
Erin Walsh, MA, and David Walsh, PhD, wrote, “[L]earning how to experience, name, and manage emotions is one of the central tasks of childhood and leads to all kinds of good outcomes later in life.” They further said that it is important to normalize multiple feelings in your child. “Remind your child that it is okay to be sad about loss and excited or joyful about something else.”
Share How You Feel
Some kids who develop erratic behavior after learning about the death of a loved one do not always act like that to get your attention. At times, the change comes from their inability to know how to feel or react to what happened.
“Buried grief can bubble to the surface in troublesome ways later on in a person’s life,” says Lara Krawchuk, MSW, LCSW, MPH. That is one reason to speak with your children about your thoughts and emotions related to the situation. She notes, “Showing, by example, can be very powerful because kids will not feel as much pressure to protect other grieving loved ones or hide or bury their true emotions.”
Let them know that you are sad, that you will miss the deceased terribly. However, you better emphasize that while you are unhappy right now, you know that you can overcome the gloom if you do it together.
Maintain Stability At Home
Even among adults, the grieving process takes forever to end when your days revolve around remembering what or who you lost. Say, instead of going back to work, you only want to stay close to the dead person or animal’s bed. You stop going to gatherings you used to love because you worry that it might still be too early for you to enjoy your life, although half a year already passed.
If your goal is to keep your children from dealing with grief for too long, you ought to get them back in their daily routine right after the funeral. Don’t let them skip school; bring them to sports practices. This way, they can regain a sense of stability and accept the death faster.
Answer Their Questions
Of course, an unexpected loss of a beloved tends to make a child wonder about a million things. For example, “Where will the deceased go?” “What will happen to the body?” “Will the dead go to heaven?”
You are talking to a kid, so there’s no need to be very graphic with your replies. To reassure him or her that the deceased is now in a better place, though, you should supply honest answers to their queries whenever you can. “One of the difficulties for a parent is that they are learning as well,” wrote Phyllis R. Silverman, PhD. “They need to translate the experience of mourning into age appropriate language their children can understand in order to become the teachers their children need.”
Losing someone is challenging to overcome for people of all ages. You will never see the person or pet you loved so dear, regardless if you believe in reincarnation or not. The things you could have done together can no longer happen. Nevertheless, telling a child about the death and waiting for their reaction may give you a new perspective on how to handle grief.