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Children and grief

The thought of explaining our mortality to a child can be both heartbreaking and scary.

Their innocence is admirable and their naivety is beautiful and no parent ever wants to be the one to burst their bubble.

But as we all know, death is promised to us and the sooner a child is aware of this, the sooner they can begin to understand and accept that dying is a part of life.

The fact that more children are now attending funerals is a refreshing indication that parents and families are basing more importance on the need for the younger people in our lives to mourn in a healthy way, farewell the people they love and accept that this is a natural part of living.

It’s especially important not to hide the truth from children because they are far more intuitive than we know and someone’s death should never become a secret affair.

This poses the risk that they may feel their grief at losing someone is something they need to hide.

Although a child’s life is forever changed when they can begin to grasp the concept of death, knowing that they are supported, treated the same as everyone else and given the right to grieve how they wish, can make all the difference.

It’s widely known that just as with adults, no two children grieve the same way and understanding that death is finite as opposed to grasping how someone or something’s death will affect them, are two very different things for children.

Depending on the age of the child, understanding the ramifications of the loss of someone they love may come at a much later stage and this can also mean the grieving process is delayed.

It’s important for parents and caregivers to be aware of normal childhood responses to death, but also the signs to watch out for when a child is having difficulty coping with their grief.

During the weeks following a death, it’s normal for some children to grieve immediately, usually as a reaction to the grieving happening around them, but they can continue to persist in the belief that the family member or friend is still alive for some time.

Once children reach acceptance of the death, often they will continue to grieve sporadically for a long time and support is vital in these instances.

Think twice before you exclude a child from a funeral, they have as much right as us to say goodbye to someone they love and it could make a big difference to their healing process.