When a child is grieving the loss of a loved one, you may not even realize that they are grieving. Children process and express complex emotions differently than adults. However, that are not This means that pain is not happening and your child is not affected by their emotions. Furthermore, children are no longer too young to grieve.
The ability to understand death
Grieving in children is difficult because younger children may not understand the concept of death and its permanence. A child might believe that death is temporary, especially since so many cartoons show a character being mortally wounded and then coming back to life.
As a result, young children often miss a loved one for small periods of time and may be upset for a few minutes occasionally. But because it’s hard for them to understand that death is permanent, they won’t fully understand what the loss will really mean for their lives.
A younger child often says they understand grandpa won’t be back, only to then ask if grandpa will be at their next birthday party.
Just as understanding of death changes with age, so do signs of grief. It’s important to recognize when your child is grieving so you can make sure they’re dealing with their emotions in a healthy way. In fact, one study found that interventions can help children cope with loss in a healthy way and help prevent the development of mental health problems or grief from trauma.
Signs that a child is grieving
When an adult is grieving, it always seems to be present, even in moments of happiness. However, children often seem fine for a moment, but then become very upset, because their brains can’t seem to deal with sadness for a long time.
In the early stages of grief, it’s normal for children to feel a bit of a rejection that a loved one is gone.
They can continue to expect the deceased to appear at any time. This rejection is normal for a while, but over time the reality of loss will start to sink in, especially with older kids. Whether your child has lost a pet, teacher, neighbor, or family member, here are some other things you may see after the loss.
Children may be more clingy after a loss. They may cry because they have to go to school or they may ask for help with things they did before just to get your attention. Babies and toddlers can sense their caregiver’s grief, so they may react by being irritable, crying more, and wanting to be held even when they’re unaware of the loss. .
Toddlers and preschoolers may begin to wet the bed or not sleep through the night. Meanwhile, a small baby may be crawling again, talking or wanting to take a bottle again.
Older children and adolescents experiencing loss often express grief by falling behind in their studies or failing classes they once took. They may also have trouble focusing on work or completing assignments.
Grieving children may want to sleep with their parents or others close to them, or they may have nightmares or dream about the deceased. Meanwhile, older kids may have a bit of a sleep loss or may have a fear of death that keeps them from sleeping.
Sometimes children can’t focus on any particular activity or have trouble making decisions or solving problems. They also have difficulty concentrating and can get distracted or lose focus in space.
Both children and teens can start to worry about everything, but especially about other people in their lives dying. They will need to be assured that they will be safe and cared for on a daily basis. This need is especially evident in preschoolers.
Children may feel betrayed, rejected, or abandoned by the deceased and perhaps others. As a result, they may need reassurance that you will be there for them.
Make sure you keep your promises, especially during this time, so that the fear of abandonment will not persist.
Children of all ages can react to grief by exhibiting behavior problems that did not exist before. They can start acting at school or talking at home. Likewise, adolescents may be attracted to more risky behaviors, such as drinking or taking drugs.
Children often blame themselves for the death of a loved one. Children may think it’s their fault because they once wished the person “goes away” or they might somehow think their actions caused the person’s death.
Changes in Play
Young children may start talking about death in their pretend play more. Their stuffed animals, dolls or action figures can die and come back to life. If you witness this behavior, you need to realize that your child is grieving the loss.
When to Get Professional Help
Not all children who are grieving need grief counseling. But it’s important to watch out for signs that your child is having a particularly hard time dealing with loss. Here are some warning signs that may indicate your child may benefit from professional help.
- Excessive imitation of the deceased: Children often say things like, “I want to eat chocolate chip cookies because that’s grandpa’s favorite.” But excessive imitation of the deceased is not normal and it could mean that your child is struggling to deal with his or her feelings.
- Believe they are talking to the deceased: All children can say that they have seen the deceased or that they have spoken to the person once. But when children insist that they continue to see the person or continue to talk to the individual, seek professional help.
- Prolonged periods of depression: It’s normal to be upset, but a prolonged loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities could be a sign your child is having a hard time. Mental health problems such as depression or anxiety can develop after a loss.
- Symptoms get worse over time: Your child’s symptoms, such as clinginess or trouble sleeping, will resolve gradually over time. If your child’s symptoms are getting worse, it could be a sign they need professional help to deal with their feelings.
- Constantly expressing a desire to be with the deceased.: If your child says they want to die or wish they could, don’t take those words lightly. Suicide ideas are a big red sign and it’s important to talk to your child’s doctor or mental health professional.
If your child is contemplating suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and help from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.
Children who have difficulty coping with loss can receive grief counseling. Grief counseling may include individual therapy, family therapy, or group therapy.
If you suspect your child is struggling to cope with a loss, talk to your child’s pediatrician. Your pediatrician can assess your child’s needs and refer you to an appropriate treatment provider.
How to help a child overcome?
It’s not easy for an adult to come to terms with their own pain and navigate helping a child through their grief. But it’s important to help children learn to cope. Here are some strategies you can use to help your child deal with grief.
Using words, such as “we lost him” or “she’s asleep now,” can confuse and frighten a child. It is important for children to understand that the person is not just asleep or gone, but their body stops working and they are not coming back. Of course, the terrible details are unnecessary, but you should tell the truth.
Acknowledgment of loss
You will decide if it is appropriate for your child to attend the funeral. However, if your child is afraid to go, don’t force them to do so. You can find other ways to acknowledge your child’s loss. Write a letter to a loved one, celebrate your private life, light a candle, or create a scrapbook at home.
A child’s grief is cyclical, and for adults, it can feel like they’re drowning in loss after you think they’ve moved on. It’s important to be patient and respond similarly with comfort and sincerity each time they replay the grieving moment.
Remember that a reminder, such as the anniversary of a death, can awaken the grieving process.
Talk to carers
In particular, teachers should be informed about what is going on with families. They need information about the death, who to look to if they see signs of distress, and the appropriate way to support the child if they are having an emotional moment.
Take care of yourself
Your child will look to you to see how to deal with their emotions, so it’s important that you make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Talk about your feelings openly, but be careful not to burden your child with too many adult problems. It may be helpful for you to talk to a grief counselor or join a grief support group to help you care for your feelings.
Read books about grief
Your child can benefit from reading stories about loss, death, and grief. Be prepared to answer questions about what happens to people when they die. And if you don’t know the answer, you can say you’re not sure.
You may not see many signs of grief right after a loss, especially if a child is young. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see signs of grief for years to come.
Four-year-olds who lost their father would not understand the ultimate death at that time. But when they turn 10 and have a father-daughter dance or a father-daughter fishing trip, they can start to show signs of grief because the reality of what they’ve lost really sinks in. in.
Likewise, 7-year-olds seem to deal with their grief fairly quickly after the loss of a grandparent. But during the teen years, they may show signs of grief as they begin to understand the things they missed without their grandparents around, or they may regret not spending more time with them when they were young. alive.
There is no set timeline when it comes to grief, no matter how young or old one is.
Therefore, suggesting that it’s time for a child to “get over it” won’t work. Grief can last a lifetime, but with support, grief can turn into healing for the whole family.
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