- It is so important to remember that children feel grief and pain at a very young age, even when we go to great lengths to protect them from it. And they will express it in ways we may not understand at the time, but we need to acknowledge.
I can see it in siblings dealing with these emotions in our intensive care and I see it in my own grandchildren.
My five year old granddaughter is sensitive or dramatic to these feelings depending on her mood. She may turn on the water works like when her barn kitten was fatally injured, ( one was hit by a car not too long ago and she can still cry buckets over it) or she may be totally mature and matter of fact, ( like when she explained about the skunk hit on that same road. Here she simply stated the obvious fact that she would be very glad when the skunk was all the way flat because then he wouldn't let off that stinky puff every time a car ran over him.) And she was quick to reassure me that I should not be sad because my daddy,her great papaw, was with Jesus so I shouldn't cry.
My grandson who is two can also show his grief as he did this week when my dad passed away. He spent several minutes throwing himself to the floor playing "dead" to show my granddaughter what it was like when papaw died.
Follow these tips to help your child to feel free to express their grief:
- Allow your child to talk about death in his own words without judging
- Use age appropriate honesty to explain the event or to discuss family/religious beliefs
- Answer questions as simply and truthfully as possible without overwhelming the child
- Find ways to honour the memory of the loved one or beloved pet to help your child remember
- Weave joy and laughter with the tears ... it will reassure your child and tame their imagination about what they don't understand.
Following these tips will help to ease your child's fear about death and to reassure your child that there is still love and happiness in the midst of sadness and grief. And give hugs, really big hugs.