Death and Child GriefThe earliest memories of death and its imprint on the young mind can be quite scarring and traumatic for children. Depending on the level of mental development some children cannot even fathom what death itself means much less grasp the grief that is associated with it. Eventually as the age of reason comes, the emotional aspect of missing someone correlates with the intellectual reality of what death and missing that someone means in regards to life. It is within that age of reason that parents or other family members need to address death with children. Obviously within this objective importance of addressing death, there are subjective cases where prudence will decide how much detail is necessary, but to disenfranchise a child’s grief over the death of a loved one can be traumatic to a child. Child grief is hence an important thing to understand.
Most professionals and grief counselors believe that death should be addressed to children. The detail should match the maturity of the child. The child needs to know so that he or she has a better understanding of why routines or emotional behaviors have changed. The child also needs reassured that while everyone will eventually die that not everyone is going to “go away” immediately. By talking, the child can also express his or her fears. Some of these fears may seem insignificant to an adult mind but may be very real for a child. Through an open forum, any damaging ideas can be dismissed.
The biggest thing for a child is to let them know things will eventually return to normal and that there is stability and love for them. They need to know that one’s loved one is never forever gone but only temporarily; if Christian, Christian grief ideas can be applied as well.
Overall, children need to know that their concerns mean something. One of the biggest mistakes one can make is to keep a child in the dark and not communicate with him or her about a death. On to many occasions parents neglect the needs of their children while they personally grieve.
Grief counseling and grief counselors can help in these trying times. Some children may need extra help to express themselves. In these cases, grief and in some cases professional counseling may be needed by those who specialize in child and adolescent grief counseling.
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