Children grieve differently
In the months following a significant death in the family it often appears that the children are ‘doing fine’. (Teenagers are particularly good at applying coping mechanisms such as TV or PlayStation - even studying on occasion) but it is important to look beneath the surface.
A child’s grief differs from an adults in that they can swiftly ‘switch’ from feeling sad and helpless, to happier feelings. So a child can cry one minute and then run out to play as if there is nothing wrong.
The tendency is to think the suffering is not deep or genuine, but in fact it is just the way children naturally deal with loss. It is also important not to assume a child is too young to be bereaved. Even babies can experience grief if they have formed an attachment with the person who has died.
Adult reactions count
Unfortunately, when there are so many concerns and practicalities that demand immediate adult attention, the idea that they are coping well or haven’t really been affected can be a convenient fiction and children may not be given the opportunities they need to express themselves.
How the adults around them handle their own grief and emotions can have a huge impact on a child.
To see an adult, particularly one who is responsible for them, completely loose control of their emotions rocks a child’s sense of security. However, if the adults around them hide their feelings completely to protect the children, the child, whether young or teenage, may begin to believe that it is not OK to feel sad or angry themselves.
On the other hand if a parent can say “I feel really sad today because I am missing them too” that gives the child permission to talk about their emotions, reassures them that what they are feeling is normal and takes the fear away.
If you would like to discuss bereavement counselling for either yourself or your child, call us free on 0800 009 3453, and we will put you in touch with qualified organisations and Bereavement counsellors.
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