Losing a parent, grandparent or family pet can be an exceptionally confusing time for you, but what about your little ones? I recently experienced the death of my grandmother, but I was not as affected by her death as my nephew.
My nephew is twelve, and it struck me that his grief was compounded by his confusion, he didn’t really understand what her passing meant. He was confronted with the thought that suddenly, she wouldn’t be there anymore.
I considered that his feelings were probably not unfamiliar to millions of other kids out there. So I pulled together a list of things that can help your child prepare for or deal with the passing of a loved one.
Many professionals recommend getting your child a pet that doesn’t have a long lifespan. This means that you can explain to your child from a young age what death means and help them to understand that it is a normal process. It is very important not to ‘replace’ their dead pet or keep the animal’s death a secret, children do know the difference and they may harbour feelings of resentment well into adulthood.
It’s important that we talk to our children about death and what it means. Sometimes children – and even adults – struggle with the concept that someone who was there yesterday or last week, isn’t there now. Preparing them with a discussion about a sick pet or relative who has a limited amount of time left can also go a long way in assisting them to prepare for and understand the situation when it arises.
Your children might find this part confusing or overwhelming, so it might be best to take cues from them regarding this point. It is always a good idea to keep your children in the loop and keep them involved regarding any funeral or formal proceedings surrounding the death. Make sure they get to say a piece about your family pet, or ask them to write a letter to grandpa to be buried with.
Read a book
There are a lot of books available out there geared at explaining death to young people. For parents who do not have the luxury of preparing their child with a small animal, sometimes reading to them from a book can help. These books are usually best if they are written by child psychologists, because they have a better grasp on the appropriate language to use for your child.
Acknowledge their feelings
Your child may be confused, angry or become depressed. They can begin to act out, which may put extra stress on you that you do not need. It is a good idea to sit your child down and acknowledge their feelings, ask them if you can help or if they need you to answer any questions and be honest! Children are perceptive and they will know if you avoid a topic or lie to them.
This is beneficial for both parties because this goes both ways. Your child can become clingy or anxious because they fear more deaths, while this is incredibly normal, it is important that you reassure them. Spend time cuddling them, talking to them and always tell them when you are leaving and when you expect to return. It is also beneficial to discuss the circumstances of the death with your child, ‘grandma was sick for a very long time,’.
Coming to grips with the concept of a loved one suddenly no longer around, when they were talking to you not long ago, can be difficult for anyone. A child hasn’t yet developed the language or emotional maturity to completely understand their feelings following the death of a loved one, but with your help and a little bit of preparation, you can minimise the impact on your little people.
Did you hold a funeral for your pets? Share with us below.
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