Dealing With Grief
About This Module
Children dealing with grief can be very difficult for children and a very stressful time for their parents. It is however important that our children learn the coping skills required to process grief and develop a way of managing these emotions within themselves.
As parents, we would love to protect our children from the feeling of grief, but sadly many children are forced to contend with grief at an early age. It is important that we help our children to learn a healthily way to grieve, support them and allow them to grieve, and teach them that grief will not last forever.
What You'll Learn
Learn the importance of coping with grief effectively.
Ensure your child is dealing with grief and not suppressing it.
Learn the best way of talking to your child about the difficult subject of death.
Help your child know what to do when their feelings of grief seem overwhelming.
Build a healthy approach to handle grief positively.
WeParent Top Tip
What is the difference between sadness and grief?
Sadness is a healthy, emotional reaction and one your child will experience on a regular basis. Sadness may last one or two hours, or even a few days. Learning to cope with sadness is an important skill for children to learn during the mid-childhood years.
Grief is a more prolonged emotional reaction typically caused by the loss of a relationship. Whilst grief brings to mind the death of a loved one, this is not the only cause of grief in children. Friends moving away, parents splitting up or any other change which your child perceives as a loss of a relationship can cause them to experience grief.
If you are unsure if your child is experiencing grief or sadness, start with the sadness module and proceed to the grief module if needed.
Psychology Fun Facts
Grief is the emotional experience following a loss of any kind of relationship. Grief can be managed through a variety of healthy coping strategies. If we do not process grief it can turn into anxiety, depression or anger issues.
Grief is most commonly associated with the death of a loved one, however there are several more situations where children can experience similar levels of grief.
- a close friend moving away
- separation of parents
- a parent or relative having a serious physical or mental illness
- a relative going to hospital or prison
- death of a relative
- death of a pet
Some people believe that negative emotions should be kept in and not shown. Traditionally, this has particularly been the case in males. Crying is the body’s way of expressing sadness and grief. The ability to process these emotions is a large part of building resilience.
When a loved one dies your child is likely to struggle with the concept of death itself. Then they will experience the sense of loss that comes with it.
Dealing with grief is a learned skill and children need to be given time and support to develop these life skills and enable them to be able to cope with loss later in life. Being both over protective or forcing children to suppress their emotions can result in a lack of coping skills later in life as adults.
Unresolved grief issues can turn into mental illness later in life, such as anxiety or depression.
A valuable first step in your child processing the emotion of sadness is for them to learn to use words that describe how they’re feeling. Parents who encourage their child to verbalise their feelings are helping their child to process them more quickly and more effectively.
Children typically experience grief intensely for the first 3 – 7 days. Followed by a period of around six months of feeling grief once or twice a week. After this six month period, children feel grief a couple of times a year.