Like adults children too can feel overwhelming grief after the loss of a family member or friend. Here is some advice from Hospice of CNY’s Bereavement counselor and Grief Camp Director Susan Bachorik:
Questions posed by children should be answered in a straightforward, brief manner with consideration of the developmental level of the child.
Most children can usually absorb only bits of information at a time. Pay attention to their cues. Make sure they understand what you say. Explore with your child what prompted them asking a specific question. It is okay for you as the parent or guardian to say “I don’t know” if you are unsure how to respond or do not have the answer to their question. Some common questions asked by children are:
Why did daddy die? If possible, try to understand why they are asking this question. Are they feeling sad, angry, guilty, etc. about the death? If it was an illness, were they aware of the prognosis? Was it a sudden death? Many factors need to be taken into consideration. It is imperative to allow the child to express their thoughts and feelings. For young children, death is confusing.
When is mommy coming back? How do you tell a child they are not coming back? It is important for them to know she is not coming back. They may not understand the concept of death being a finality. You can say things such as “the body stopped working.” Do not say “she fell asleep and did not wake up.” If they have experienced a pet dying they may understand the finality of death.
Will you die too? It is important when answering this question to give reassurance and support. You might answer this question by saying “I will die sometime, but I hope to be here a long time yet.” How long will I live? A child needs to be reassured that most people live until they are old and do not worry about dying. No one knows how long they will live and no one lives forever. Depending on the age of the child share information based on what they can understand.
Sometimes children are looking for simple answers to their questions. Do not feel you have to share a great deal of information when your child initially brings up the subject. Listen to their concerns and let them process their feelings. Encourage them to talk as much as they want about this death. If they know of a peer who has had someone die, it may be helpful to let them know they are not the only one who has experienced the loss of a loved one.
CAMP HEALING HEARTS provides an environment for children to meet other children who have suffered a loss. Registration for CAMP HEALING HEARTS has opened. Our 2018 Camp takes place, August 20th – August 23rd. For camper applications and volunteer registration visit our website or call us at 315-634-2208.