Children experience grief differently than adults – but they certainly understand loss.
We, at eFuneral, have posted several articles on grief and grieving. However, we know that children grieve differently than adults. For instance, rather than experiencing a high level of emotion for a sustained, long period of time, children often move in and out of intense feelings. It’s a common misconception that laughing or playful children are “over it.” The article below is discusses tips on talking with children about death and helping them grieve. This originally appeared on Confessions of a Funeral Director and was written by Caleb Wilde.
In the Western world, death is one of the last taboos. Death has become so sterile … so unspeakable … so frightful … so improper … that we assume we MUST protect the innocent souls from it’s darkness. In many parental minds, those “innocent souls” who need the most protection are our children.
Death, though, isn’t something that we CAN protect our children from. It is a part of life. A part of life that we can either ignore, or we can learn to find the life that exists in death.
Here are a few helpful tips that I’ve gathered from three separate counseling journals about how to help your children grieve:
- When death happens, have a close relative, preferably a parent, tell the child about it immediately.
- Understand that children do indeed grieve and can comprehend loss.
- Stay close to the child, giving them physical affection.
- Let the child see you grieve; it gives them permission to grieve on their own. “It will help the child to see the remaining parent, friends and relatives grieve. Grief shared is grief diminished…if everyone acts stoically around the child, he or she will be confused by the incongruity. If children get verbal or nonverbal cues that mourning is unacceptable, they cannot address the mourning task.”
- Avoid euphemisms such as, “passed on,” “gone away,” “departed”. In and of itself, the concept of death is difficult enough for a child to understand; using euphemisms will only add to the difficulty.
- Advise the child to attend the funeral, but do not force him or her to go.
- Gently help the child grasp the concept of death. Avoid vague explanations to the child’s questions, but answer each question as honestly as possible.
- Keep other stressing situations, such as moving or changing schools to a minimum; after the ceremonies, continue child’s regular routines.
- Be honest with the child about the depth of the pain he or she will feel. “You may say, ‘this is the most awful thing could happen to you.’ Contrary to popular belief, minimizing the grief does not help.
Based on the above tips, how would you answer the question, “Should I bring my child to a funeral?”
Mike Belsito is an Internet entrepreneur from Cleveland, Ohio with a background in product innovation, ideation, and startup business development. Mike is the Co-Founder of Cleveland-based eFuneral, a comprehensive and free online resource that enables those thinking about end-of-life to research, plan, and arrange a wide variety of funeral-related services. He also serves as an entrepreneur-in-residence for the City of Lakewood, Ohio — a 50,000+ residential community located in Northeast Ohio.