In terms of helping children cope with death – children tend to react differently to death than adults. Their response will depend on:
- What type of relationship they had with the person who has died. Death of a Mother for example, maybe much harder than the death of an Uncle.
- Age and level of understanding – for infants they may feel the loss in terms of how it affects their day to day routine. Pre-school children usually see death as temporary and reversible. Older children may have realised that death involves a permanent separation. Sometimes children may feel that they “caused” the death – e.g. by being naughty. They will show their feelings about the loss usually in terms of their behaviour or presentation.
- Circumstances of the death – a traumatic death may be hardest of all for children to cope with sudden death will also be very hard for children.
When helping children cope with death some adults try to shield children from what has happened by withholding information from them. But research tells us that children benefit from knowing what has happened as soon as possible. Children also need to be listened to and have their questions answered.
Sometimes a child many not be able to clearly recall their loved one’s face and this can be very distressing for them. Helping children to cope with death could also include the use of a significant photograph as a source of comfort. Most of all they need to be given a way of saying goodbye – if for example they’re considered too young to attend the funeral they might be able to say a prayer for the person they’ve lost. As time goes on they’ll need permission from the adults around them to show their feelings in whatever way helps (anger, sadness etc).