How Will My Child Feel After Losing a Family Member?Kenny Scott | Aug 17, 2016 | Child bereavement
Are you concerned about how your child will feel after losing a family member or loved one?
The loss of a loved one can be an incredibly painful time for everyone involved, and if you have a child, you may also find yourself dealing with the added stress and worry about how your child will cope with this loss, either at school, with friends, and in future.
As a child bereavement counsellor, I know from experience that it can be difficult to know what to expect, and how you can help your child come to terms with their grief – especially when you’re still dealing with grief of your own.
With that in mind, I’m going to provide you with some tips and advice on how your child might be feeling, and how you can help them through this difficult time.
How your child might be feeling after a loss
There are lots of emotions that may be going around in your child’s head after losing a loved one or family member. Just like adults, all children handle grief differently. Some may be very quiet and not ask any questions to begin with, whereas others may be very vocal with lots of questions.
Some may have tears, whereas some may experience none at all. All of this is perfectly normal, so please don’t worry about your child’s reactions after losing someone special in their lives.
The grieving process can be explained in five stages. These are:
However, these stages are like waves; they go up and down, and crash about, and there’s no set order or stopping place. Your child may go to one stage, then another, then back again – all of this happening over a period of time. (Again, there’s no set period, and this will vary for each child)
I have personally been that child, who lost a parent at a young age. Now, reflecting on my time of bereavement as a child, I can clearly see how all of these stages played out. It would have been helpful to have known what to expect, to understand that the emotions I was experiencing were okay, and normal.
I’ve since worked with many other children who have lost a parent, and it’s good to explain the stages and make sure they understand the feelings they will be experiencing.
How to help your child cope with grief
You child may feel worried in case the death was their fault; this is very common, and they’ll need reassurance that this was not the case. They may also start to wonder what has happened to the body. It’s important to be honest here, as they’ll have questions about this, too.
Depending on your religion or beliefs, this may be a time to start exploring spirituality and theories on what may happen when people die – for example, do they go to heaven and look down on us from time to time?
It’s important for a child to see that you are grieving, too. Chances are, this is the first time they are experiencing grief, so they won’t have the knowledge to reflect back and form understandings; they will not have developed the grieving skills possessed by adults, and will learn by watching others.
Don’t be afraid to be open, show them your tears and explain to them why you are sad; it will help them to understand and realise it’s okay to be sad whether you are an adult or a child. The worst thing you can do is nothing at all, so encourage your child to discuss death with you and ask as many questions as they’d like.
Further resources you might find helpful
There are some really good, well thought-out resources available to help children understand more about death and the grieving process.
- ‘Water Bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children‘ – by Doris Stickney
- ‘Are You Sad, Little Bear?’ – by Rachel Rivett
- ‘Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine’ – by Diana Crossley
TIP: I personally love how ‘Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine’ has been developed as an activity book to help children remember their loved one and also sort out their feelings and the stages of grief they are in.
There’s also a wonderful website called Winston’s Wish that provides areas for children to communicate with others who are coming with a bereavement, along with various activities for them to explore their feelings.
I’m sorry for your loss, and I hope this blog post has provided you with the guidance you need to ensure your child can come to terms with his or her grief in a safe environment. Remember, don’t be afraid to show your own emotions, and help them understand the wave of emotions they are experiencing.
I wish you all the best, and I encourage you to check out some of the above resources for more advice on helping your child cope with the loss of a family member or loved one.
If you’re looking for ideas for what to do with your loved one’s ashes, you’re welcome to read our ebook: ‘6 Things You Can Do With Your Loved One’s Ashes‘.