Dealing with the death of a loved one or cherished pet is a difficult process for anyone, but children, especially, have a difficult time accepting and understanding the permanence of death.
The most important thing when providing emotional support to a grieving child is to let them know that it’s appropriate to talk about the loss. Be open to communication, even if it is difficult, because talking about the death with the child will allow him to ask questions and express feelings.
Amy Luster tells parents that it is normal for the grieving process of a child to take a very long time. The younger the child is, the more confused he may be about the permanence of death. He may ask the same questions, such as “why,” over and over while dealing with the loss. Sometimes, an event might happen and trigger the feelings of sadness and anger all over again. Keeping the lines of communication open is key to dealing with reoccurring grief, but try to remember to provide the child with simple, age-appropriate terms.
Clinical psychologist Ivy Margulies suggests that adults help the grieving child create a memory photo book or some type of artwork that will tell the story of the relationship and keep memories alive for the child. Some older children may want to process their feelings using music or poetry as well. Allow the child to find methods of grieving that work best for him.
Grief is life long, so even though your child may seem to move past the initial sadness and anger that accompanies the loss of a loved one, it doesn’t mean he won’t have periods of emotional uncertainty for a long time to come. Many things can trigger memories that will cause sadness, but as long as your child knows he can talk to you about those feelings, you can work through them together. Don’t allow your child to shut others out and hold the feelings inside. Even when a child doesn’t want to talk initially, he will eventually need to share what’s going on inside of his head and heart.