Grief is a person's reaction to a loss and is an emotional aspect of pain. After the death of a loved one, you may feel sadness, anger, emptiness, confusion and many other emotions. People experiencing grief may become quiet or lethargic and turn away from others.
Grief can be subdivided into regret, disappointment, sadness, grief, and extreme grief, depending on its degree. Grief is sometimes accompanied by crying, which leads to a release of tension and a relief of psychological stress. It is a negative stress-reducing emotion and a psychological protective measure. But stronger sadness is also very harmful to the human psyche, sustained sadness not only makes people feel lonely, disappointment, helpless, and even cause clinical depression; sadness will also damage the human body, sadness continues to weaken the individual's body immune function, so that people suffer from digestive diseases, cardiovascular diseases, tumors and other cardiac diseases, severe sadness and even affect the physiological function and lead to sudden death.
How do children usually express their grief?
Children often express their grief in a variety of ways, such as directly in words or by reflecting discomfort directly from their bodies. The death of a loved one, friend or pet can be a shock to their young minds. Here are a few ways children express their grief:
1. Verbal Expression
Verbal communication is one of the most direct ways children express their grief. Younger kids often have trouble putting their feelings into words, yet they might still input inquiries or express their worries. It's important to pay close attention when they speak and to support them in sharing their emotions. Promoting frank and open conversation can aid in their healthy grieving process.
2. Behavioral Changes
Children may exhibit behavioral changes when experiencing grief. These changes can include withdrawal, irritability, or regression in behavior. A once-potty trained child might start having accidents, or a typically well-behaved child might become disobedient. These behaviors often stem from their inability to articulate their emotions, so it's essential to be patient and understanding.
3. Play and Artistic Expression
Play and artistic activities can be a therapeutic outlet for children to express their grief. Through play, such as drawing, painting, or using dolls and toys, they can act out their feelings and create a narrative for their experiences. Encourage these creative expressions, as they can help children process their emotions in a way that feels safe and non-threatening.
4. Physical Symptoms
Grief can manifest physically in children, leading to various symptoms like stomachaches, headaches, and changes in eating and sleeping patterns. It's important not to dismiss these physical complaints. While they may be unrelated to grief, they could also be a child's way of signaling distress. Always consult with a healthcare professional if these physical symptoms persist or worsen.
5. Emotional Outbursts
Children may experience emotional outbursts as they grapple with their grief. They might become angry, sad, or even act out in frustration. It's crucial to understand that these emotional expressions are normal reactions to grief. Provide a safe and supportive environment for them to express their emotions without judgment.
6. Changes in Academic Performance
Grief can impact a child's ability to concentrate and perform well in school. Their grief may cause difficulties in paying attention or retaining information. Teachers and caregivers should be informed about the child's situation to provide the necessary support and flexibility to accommodate these challenges.
7. Seeking Reassurance
Children often seek reassurance from trusted adults when dealing with grief. They may need to hear that they are loved, that the loss was not their fault, and that their feelings are valid. Offering comfort and reassurance can help children feel secure during a turbulent time.
How to help children cope with their grief？
Children are at a critical stage of development, and their experiences during childhood significantly shape their future emotional and psychological well-being. Unresolved grief can hinder their development and affect their ability to form healthy relationships and handle stress in adulthood. Here, we collected some ways to help children cope with their grief.
1. Who should tell the child about death and lost?
If you are unfortunate enough to experience the death of a family member, you may find that you don't know how to explain the death of a loved one to your child. Who should explain this to a child? We recommend that parents explain the concept of death directly to their children. As the guardians and closest people to their children, parents undoubtedly know their children best. You need to give your child plenty of time to absorb the information, and perhaps at a young age they will have strange thoughts, such as whether the death of a loved one has anything to do with them, and how they will be affected later in life. You need to keep an eye on their thoughts and state and be ready to answer their questions at any time. Encourage them to express their true inner thoughts and not to be bothered by questions.
2. Talk about death
Use direct and simple words to explain death but pay attention to the age of the kids. If you explain to your child that grandpa is asleep or dad is away on a business trip, the child may keep thinking about when Grandpa is going to wake up or when Dad is going to be home. Instead of being ambiguous, be direct. Tell the child that the loved one has died, and that death means he was cremated or buried in the ground and will never be in our lives again. Children's expressions of grief are usually much more complex, and they may display fear, insecurity, and other immature behaviors. Grief also usually manifests itself in the form of various conflicts, and as parents, we need to take these issues seriously and channel them in a timely manner.
3. Buy some books about death to read
"The Rabbit Listened" by Cori Doerrfeld is a heartwarming and gentle story that emphasizes the importance of empathy, listening, and emotional support. It teaches children and readers of all ages that sometimes, all you need is someone to be there for you, to listen, and to understand your feelings without offering solutions or advice. Dog Heaven" by Cynthia Rylant is another book that we recommended.
4. Express what will happen in funeral
Many parents will ask me if they should take their child to a funeral. I think it depends largely on the child's wishes. If you plan to take your child to a funeral, you need to explain to him in advance what a funeral is and whose funeral to attend. Funerals are usually held in memory of a loved one who have passed away. If you are attending the funeral of a loved one, you can ask your child if he would like to make a memorial video, memorial photo album, or recite a poem on stage in honor of the deceased.
5. Encourage them to talk
If your child is old enough to express himself, you can encourage him to talk to his friends or a clergy. We need to give them enough opportunities to express their inner feelings in words. Grief always comes and goes, and no one will dwell on grief and self-doubt forever. By talking to their friends, they will understand that grief is a normal emotion.
6. Memorize the deceased one in some meaningful ways
Encourage your children to share their favorite stories or memories of the deceased. You can do this during dinner or before bedtime, allowing your family to keep the person's memory alive through storytelling.
Consider making a donation to a charity or foundation in the deceased person's name. Involve your children in selecting a cause and explain why it was important to the person.
Gather photographs, letters, and mementos related to the deceased and create a memory book together. This can be a scrapbook or a digital photo album. Encourage your children to write down their memories, feelings, or even draw pictures to include in the book.
7. Buy some meaningful keepsakes for them
Memorial jewelry for children who have lost their families can be a poignant and meaningful way to provide comfort and a tangible connection to their loved ones.
Lockets with Photos
Consider lockets that can hold small photos of their family members. Opt for durable materials and designs that are child-friendly. Lockets can serve as a personal, discreet, and portable memorial.
Personalized name bracelets featuring the names of their family members can be a comforting and constant reminder of their loved ones. These can be made with child-safe materials and vibrant colors.
Angel Wing Pendants
Angel wing pendants symbolize protection and connection to the spiritual realm. Choose a design that resonates with the child and provides a sense of comfort during challenging times.
Cremation urn necklaces, also known as memorial necklaces or cremation jewelry, provide a discreet and wearable way for individuals to keep a small portion of their loved one's ashes close to their hearts. By holding a small portion of the cremated ashes, you can bring your deceased loved one to anywhere you want!
8. Give the kids enough time
Healing grief is a long process, and it is likely that there will be frequent recurrences of emotions. Remember that healing grief is definitely not a smooth process. You need to give your child enough time to learn about death and understand loss. During this healing process, you will need to listen to his inner thoughts often telling him that healing does not mean forgetting the loved one who has passed away. The departed loved one will live on in our hearts in another way forever. Some children may show symptoms like difficulty in sleeping after the death of a loved one and you need to give them more care.