How a child will react towards the death of a loved one will depend on how close they were with the person, what age they are, and what kind of support they receive. According to the Child Bereavement Network in the UK, 78% of 11-16 year-olds have lost a close friend or relative. In 2015, 23,600 parents have died which is one parent every 22 minutes. That is 112 newly bereaved children a day. It is important to be sensitive and caring to children who are going through grief and to let them know that you will be there for them through this difficult time.
In order to break the news to a child that someone they loved died, it is important to be caring and to use simple words. Pause after so that the child can take in this distressing news. Just like with adults, kids grieve in different ways as well where they sometimes cry, get angry, or do not say anything. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. If they have any questions, make sure to answer them or be with that person for a few more minutes.
In the days, weeks, and months that follow from the loss, always check in with the child and see how they are feeling. Always let them know how you are feeling too so in order to let that child know that they are not alone or wrong in feeling how they are feeling. You can also let that child know how things will be going forward such as who will pick up the child from school, who’s house the child will stay at, etc.
Let children take a part in the funeral or the memorial service and to let them know to give thanks to those who express sorrow for their loss. Explain to the child the process of the funeral and what the burial will be like as well as your belief in what happens to your soul after you die. You can invite the child to read a poem, gather photos, make something, or sing a song. Sharing happy memories you had with that person and encourage the child to draw or share stories as well. Continue to have ongoing conversations to make sure the child is doing okay and let them know you will always be with them if they need to talk.
Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centers in the UK. Castle Craig provides grief counseling that teaches patients the five stages of grief as well as providing trauma therapy group, individual therapy sessions, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).