November 26, 2020

Helping Children Cope with Grief

 We all cope differently and children are no exception. Even children who are related and dealing with the same situation will have completely different ways that they deal with grief. When a tragedy happens in the life of a young child, they might not understand exactly what is happening. A child can go from being incredibly emotional to playing with their toys in a matter of seconds. As an adult, this may seem odd, but children are wired differently. 

Who Should Tell The Child

If possible, the person who tells the news to the child should be the closest person to them. Ideally, this would be a parent or caretaker, but a grandparent, aunt and uncle, or godparent could also deliver the news. This person should be trusted by the child so they can help the child feel safe after explaining to them what happened. Whoever shares the news is allowed to be emotional, but they should be able to have enough control over their emotions as to not scare the child who is most likely confused and scared already.

What and How Should You Say It

Children should be told as soon as possible, in a reasonable time. If it is during school hours, wait until school is over if it is less than a couple hours. The worst way for a child to find out about the death of a parent would be accidentally through someone at school or outside event. The news needs to come from the closest source to a child. 

When you decide to have the conversation with the child, be mindful of where the conversation is taking place. You want to choose a place where the child can be free to express his or her emotions without peers or passerby’s around. Often times people believe that taking the child to a happy place can help “soften the blow”. Doing so can actually have more harm than good. Taking a child to an ice cream parlor or their favorite park means that from now on, everytime they visit those places, negative feelings will be associated with them. Find an area that is private and neutral to all parties. 

Don’t “beat around the bush” when delivering the news to the child. Use language that the child can understand and allow them to ask as many questions as needed. 

Important Things To Consider

How you choose to approach a situation will vary depending on the age of the child. According to Psychologists and other experts, here are some general guidelines no matter the age. 

Follow Their Lead: The questions children ask can be different from those of adults. Too much information can be overwhelming while not enough information may leave them wondering what is happening altogether. Let them lead the questions. As children, the first thing they are concerned about is how it will affect them. If the answers are more centered around themselves, just answer the questions the best you can in language that will make sense to their age group. 

Encourage Them To Express Their Feelings: Don’t hide your own feelings and expect the child to express theirs.  Children are masters at knowing when something is wrong so it is better to be honest and express how you’re feeling right away. When you hide your feelings, the child may feel like being emotional is a bad thing.

Don’t Use Euphemisms: Children are extremely literal so when you use words like “gone”, “left for a while”, and “passed away”, they might not completely understand what happened. It is your job to make sure they know that death is permanent and they won’t be coming back. Using words other than died or death can leave the child anxious or confused on what happened to their loved one. 

Keep Normal Routines:  If possible, keep all the normal routines that you were doing before the passing of your loved one. Children develop patterns in the things they do daily. It helps them feel safe and secure because they know that they are going to the same place every day and seeing the same people. Changing routines can negatively effect their ability to cope with the loss. 

Remember The Person Who Died:  As time goes on, it’s good to share memories and talk about the person who died. Remembering is a part of the grief cycle and this helps with the healing process. 

We’re Here To Help 

At Wyuka, we know exactly what your family is going through. As a funeral home and cemetery, we specialize in helping people come to terms with death. Unfortunately, death is inevitable in life, but mourning should be looked at as a celebration for that person’s life rather than sadness all the time. 

Sadness and having endless amounts of question is all part of the grieving process, but our staff is here to help you along the way. Whether it’s questions about funeral arrangements, celebration of life ceremonies or anything in between, we are here for your family. 

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but love leaves a memory no one can steal. 

Give us a call at 402.474.3600. We’re here for you!


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