Death is something that is challenging to accept and work through. This statement is true for adults, but often magnified for children. Whether you're a parent, other family member or caregiver, finding ways to assist a grieving child can minimize your feelings of concern and help everyone work through this difficult time together.
Be Honest, But Age Appropriate
Make sure you are being honest with the child, while also keeping their maturity level in mind. Although it might seem comforting to tell a child in their moment of sorrow that the deceased will be back soon, this can only lead to more turmoil and extend their grieving time.
When it comes to considering their maturity level, this will determine how much you tell. For instance, simply telling them that the person has died may suffice. However, a 16-year-old may want to know the cause of death and other details. Always be honest and share as much information as the child wants to know and you believe they can handle.
Make The Memorial Optional
Don't force a child to attend a memorial or funeral home in service. It's best to make attendance optional. Just like some adults prefer to remember a person as vibrant and alive, some children may also have this same experience. Seeing someone they care about in this state may only intensify their feelings of sorrow and make them feel overwhelmed with grief.
Remember, particularly for small children, death can sometimes be a scary idea so forcing them to attend a service they don't want to may only intensify these feelings. Sit down and ask their opinion and allow them to participate as they please.
Don't Put A Time Limit On Anything
Never put a time limit on a child's grieving period. Whether the child wants to sit in their room and cry all day or they only cry for a moment, neither incident is either right or wrong. When you tell a child that's enough or it's time to get up, you don't allow them to sort through their feelings naturally and you are instead forcing them to feel a way, which is never a good thing.
Let the child transition through their feelings at their own pace and simply be there as a source of comfort and support instead of trying to be a guide. It's their feelings and they have to sort through them as they need to.
Remember that there is no right or wrong way to move through grief. Let your child be the guide and support them in their time of need.