When a family member or close friend dies this affects everyone – Adults, Young People and Children alike.
The child’s reaction depends on –
- How close the person was or what the person meant to the child.
- If the death was sudden.
- The circumstances of the death.
- How the family are dealing with the death.
- What support is available.
How different ages understand death.
There is no hard or fast rule, it has been said that grief for children is like “Jumping in and out of puddles”.
Pre-School Children often see death as temporary and expect the person to return. They may ask when the loved one that has died will be coming to visit next or what they might be getting them for a birthday or Christmas present.
From around 5 years old
Children from the age of about five years old see the separation as permanent but will wonder where the dead person will sleep and what they will eat as they struggle the with concept of permanent loss.
From 8 to 10 years old
These children often think they are to blame for the death, e.g. because they were naughty. They may even feel that there is an issue that had not been resolved prior to their loved ones death that an adult may regard as trivial.
Teenagers understand death the in same way as adults do but they will often find it hard to put their feelings into words or may not want to show their feelings to others as they do not want to upset or worry those close to them.
Some children will negotiate grief and loss with the love and support of their family and friends, for others they may need professional support.
Possible signs that a child or young person may be struggling.
- A long period of sadness or depression.
- Total loss of day to day activities.
- Withdrawing from family and friends.
- Prolonged inability to sleep, loss of appetite or fear of being alone.
- A sharp and prolonged drop in school performance.
- Acting like a much younger child.
- Denial about the death.
- Talking repeatedly about wanting to join and be with the dead person.
Do not forget, if you think your child is struggling to deal with a bereavement professional help is out there.
To find help there are national organisations such as Childhood Bereavement Network or Winston’s Wish and your GP can also help and give advice.
Please do not struggle alone.
If you feel I can help please call me on 07828 054098 or contact me through Sandra@sandrasandraosullivan.co.uk.
I can help with counselling either with a face to face, telephone or Zoom session.