Childhood Bereavement: A Process That Needs Understanding

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Joe Dispenza

Childhood Bereavement: A Process That Needs Understanding

Last update: 28 March, 2017

Children are always forgotten when it comes to mourning. Childhood bereavement means loss.

As adults, we must help the little ones to express their emotions and the truth is that sometimes we are not ready to accompany them in this process. For this reason, in today's article we will learn the strategies useful to accompany children during the period of bereavement.

Fortunately, most children resolve their grief without major complications. However, this does not mean that it is less important to know different strategies to help them, thus understanding the process of childhood bereavement a little better. Furthermore, the way we experience the suffering of losing someone will determine that of the children around us.

Childhood mourning

Most of the time we associate grief with death. However, this process also includes other losses: the loss of one's job, a loved one, a pet, a relationship ... Grieving is the emotional adjustment process that follows any loss. Without a doubt, the death of a loved one or family member is the most difficult event to accept. How we live this situation will depend on our ability to adapt to the new situation, on our resilience.

The death of a loved one causes pain, sadness, emptiness, loneliness… and all emotions must arise in order to be managed. Children also experience these emotions.

Children react to loss. And they do it in various ways depending on the evolutionary moment, how they receive the news, the reaction of adults and personal experiences. Adults rely on poor preparation to mourn because we don't usually talk about death or terminal illness. Much less of the abandonments or the separation of parents.

However, we can learn new strategies. Let's see some of them.

Accept the reality of the loss

Accompany the child to accept the person's absence. When someone dies, there is a feeling of emptiness. It is necessary to face the fact that this person is gone and that he will not return. Even the child must accept never to see her again. And for this reason, it needs the adult to accept it too.

Managing emotions, including pain

Emotions such as sadness, depression, the feeling of emptiness, etc., are normal. Feeling pain, even physical, too. The child will have to feel these emotions. And accept them. You have to live the pain, not deny it or repress it, because if this task is not completed, depression can arise and, in this case, it will be necessary to resort to therapy.

Adapt to an environment where the deceased is absent

To start living without him or her, with that emptiness. Adopting her roles implies a change. Even for children. For example, doing housework like mom did is difficult. Definitely, it means a change in circumstances and a redefinition of roles to keep growing and not get stuck. 

Emotionally adjust to the deceased and continue living

The memories of a loved one are never lost. One cannot renounce the deceased, but find him an appropriate place in our hearts, so that we can look back and talk about him without suffering. The child will not forget the deceased person and will be able to go on like the others, with his emptiness.

In a grieving process, certain behaviors of children come into play that we can consider normal and not worrying. Sleep disturbances, intestinal disorders, retrocession to previous phases (sucking your finger, peeing on you), guilt, episodes of intense emotions (anxiety, sadness, anguish, fear…).

According to the age of the child, we can spend more time with him, invite him to express his emotions, share ours with him, correct inappropriate behaviors, involve him in family activities, calm his fears ... If symptoms persist or we don't know what to do, we can always seek help from a child psychologist. In fact, it is highly recommended when bereavement becomes complicated.

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