How To Explain Grief, Loss, and Death To A Child
Children and teens grieve differently than adults who suffer from death or loss
How do you explain death, loss and grief to children? Many well-meaning adults assume that children do not grieve. They are wrong. Childhood grief is different from the grief experienced by adults, but it very real to them.
First Loss of Child is Usually a Beloved Pet
Children grieve more sporadically than adults. They do not have the life experiences to understand the finality of death. When their pet is hit by a car and is killed, they think the vet can make it better.
When the dog is gone "forever" they struggle to put feelings and emotions into a format they can understand. Forever is a abstract time that a young child cannot comphrend.
Connection Between People and Pets
There is such a strong animal-human connection. As Marjorie Garber said:
"If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness."
The loss of a beloved pet may be the first death experience children face. It is very traumatic for the child and should not be trivialized. Their feelings and emotions are very real and they are trying to process the situation as best they can.
They need the support and understanding of caring adults to work through what has happened and what it means to them personally.
Loss of a Pet Can Be Devasting To Pet Parents
Pet loss and the surrounding activity can be a catalyst for growth and understanding with the whole family. Talking and sharing thoughts and emotions is one of the best ways to cope.
That is why people gather after a funeral to share stories and acknowledge the part the deceased has had in their lives. Help the family, and especially the kids to remember the fun times shared with our fur-family.
Children Grieve Differently Than Adults
It is a teaching moment to share openly about what is going on in our hearts, minds and bodies. Recognize that not all children or adults grieve the same way. So, do not expect the child to be openly sad or to be appearing uncaring in their attitude about the death of their pet.
It may take some time to process what this loss means to them.
No matter how the child may appear to be taking the news, do have a period of time just for them to talk and you to listen. After sharing their fears or concerns, you will want to reassure them that they are safe and loved.
This may be the opportunity to teach the values and beliefs surrounding death that you may not have shared with your family.
Depression and Anxiety May Be Signs of Unexplained Death in Childhood
A great many people who deal with depression or feelings of suicide as adults suffer from some sort of sorrow they never had the opportunity to work out as a child. Often, just asking an adult about memories of the first death or loss they experienced will result in tears and sorrow that has never had an opportunity to be expressed.
The first death a child experiences and how the important adults handled it will often color how all other death and loss is experienced in their life. Death will either be ignored, or treated with difficulty if the pattern was set early in their life.
Help for Handling Emotions is Available
If you or your child is having difficulty processing this and other traumatic situations in life, please consider my private coaching. You will want to claim your free session with "Pet Grief Coach" Judy Helm Wright at http://www.Deathofmypet.com Imagine having a wise intuitive woman who can offer personal coaching, a therapeutic sharing community and pet tribute memorial keepsakes.
You will always be glad you did.
(c) Judy Helm Wright--Author/PetParent/IntuitiveWiseWoman