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Communicate During Family Loss - Funeral service

Supporting Children Through the Loss of a Loved One

February 25, 2024

No matter how old a child is, they deserve to be lovingly supported after losing one of their loved ones. While it can be hard to find words of comfort for a loss of family members, this care is crucial for their well-being both at the time of the burial service and long term.

Through compassionate support and guidance, we can help children process often overwhelming emotions after news about death, and build important coping mechanisms to navigate the grieving process healthily.

Understanding Grief in Children

Children’s grief is processed in unique and complex ways, and many struggle to understand and express their emotions. This can lead to feelings of confusion and fear, as they struggle to deal with how they feel. It’s important to remember that kids of all ages will react, process their feelings, and perceive loss in different ways.

Grief in Younger Children

While their innocence means they may not fully comprehend the permanence of their loss, they experience a complex range of emotions like sadness, confusion, insecurity, and fear.

A lack of understanding of the situation can lead to younger kids expressing their grief through behavioural changes like regression, bedwetting, clingy behaviours, or irritability as they struggle to articulate their feelings, relying more on nonverbal cues. 

Offer a supportive environment where they feel safe to express themselves, answering their questions honestly but gently. Doing your best to maintain routines will help them cope, and provide clear explanations of what they can expect as well as reassurance.

Older Children’s Grief

As children between 6 and 12 have a deeper understanding of death, they may grapple with complex emotions ranging from intense sadness, anger, guilt, or even relief. Depending on their relationship with the deceased and the circumstances surrounding the loss, they may deal with news about death differently – from withdrawing to acting out in response to their emotions. 

Children of this age will likely have questions about death and mortality, where you can offer age-appropriate explanations and reassurance. Focus on providing a safe space for children’s grief, where their emotions are validated.

Discussing opportunities for expression and support, such as artwork or writing, is also important for older children to grieve healthily and constructively.

How Teenagers Grieve

The teenage years are a challenging time for many, meaning they tend to experience loss in complex ways. Alongside the typical sad emotions, adolescents may also grapple with feelings of confusion, isolation, and rebellion. 

Teenagers may try to conceal their emotions to appear strong or independent, leading to a sense of loneliness. As well as withdrawing socially, they might also engage in risky behaviours or act out as a way to cope with their pain.

Start by providing a supportive environment along with words of comfort for the loss of family members, as young adults need to feel secure during this time. Listen as they express their feelings, and offer avenues to develop healthy coping mechanisms like therapy, support groups, or simply a safe space.

Effective Communication Strategies

Supporting children after they have lost a loved one means creating a safe and effective means of communication. When discussing news about death, use clear, direct language appropriate for their level of understanding, so they feel safe to discuss beautiful things to say when someone dies. Encourage questions and provide honest, yet gentle, answers, reassuring them that it’s okay to feel upset, angry, or confused, without dwelling too long on sad feelings.

Children’s grief tends to be unique, but you can provide comfort through physical touch, and expressions of love. or validating their emotions. Listen attentively and be patient as they process their grief, and remember it’s ok for them to see you feel sad or cry.

Support Mechanisms

Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in supporting children through their grief. During the initial tumultuous time, it’s important to maintain routines, while also allowing them to partake in any events or rituals if they wish. Encourage children to express their emotions through art, play, or conversation, validating their feelings without judgment.

As you create a safe and nurturing environment where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and memories, offer hugs, reassurance, and affection if appropriate so they feel extra comforted and secure. With consistent support, children of all ages will benefit from loving understanding as they can navigate the loss of a loved one.

Professional Help and Resources 

If children are struggling to cope with their grief, or you see significant changes in behaviour, it’s important to reach out to a grief counsellor or therapist specialising in child bereavement. Professionals can provide specialised support and coping strategies tailored to the child’s unique needs.

The digital age offers many books, online resources, and support groups with valuable insights and peer support for children struggling with loss, as well as beautiful things to say when someone dies. Encourage children to explore these resources, with adult supervision where appropriate, and participate in activities that promote healing. Remind them seeking help is a sign of strength and will lead to meaningful growth and resilience.

Empathetic Support From the Experts

Supporting children through grief is essential for their emotional well-being. With open communication, words of comfort for the loss of family members, and seeking professional help, we can help children navigate the complex emotions of grief with love and understanding.

Providing support after losing a loved one can be difficult. For additional help around this busy and stressful time consider reaching out to Perth Cremations and Burials, a trusted funeral home offering compassionate guidance and assistance.

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