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Helping your child to cope with loss

When someone that you know passes away, be it a family member or a close friend, it can be difficult for your child to deal with it. Consequently, it’s important to learn all that you can regarding helping your child to deal with loss so that they will come out of the first experience with death they face without facing too much inner damage. In this article, we’ll offer up some tips that you may find helpful for those tough times when you have to discuss the matter of death with your child.
When your children are around age six or younger, it is important to realize that they don’t look at the world from too much of a philosophical angle; instead, they take things as they come, and take them quite literally. If they have questions about death at this age, one thing that you may want to consider telling them is that people who die are people whose bodies are broken in a way that the doctors aren’t able to fix. Tell them that people who die are people whose bodies stop working, and that it is a natural part of life. You should avoid saying things to your child such as saying the deceased person ‘is sleeping now’, because it will only confuse the child’s young mind and possibly make them hurt even worse than they already do.
If your child is between the ages of six and ten, their perception of death is probably quite different than that of a younger child. At this stage, children tend to understand the basic concept of death but may be pretty idealistic and may believe that certain lucky charms or superstitions can protect them or the people that they love from death.
If you are taking your child to their first funeral, it is important to let them know, in detail, exactly what types of things are going to go on. Explain to them that the dead person is going to be in a casket, and that there will be a lot of other people at the funeral who are going to be sad and crying. Let them know the basics of what will happen, and how they need to be still and quiet when the preacher is giving their sermon. Some parents thing that they should set a good example for their child by staying strong and not showing weakness when at a funeral, but actually, the opposite type of behavior is encouraged. Crying and showing your child that death affects everyone will help them realize that grieving is a natural part of the process.
Every child reacts differently to death, and you should realize that just because they don’t grieve in the same ways that you do doesn’t mean they feel any less bad. Children often need a little space when it comes to dealing with a loss, but it is also important to be there in case your child has any questions or if they just want a shoulder to cry on. Grieving the passing of a loved one is a tough experience for everybody, but you should do all that you can to make it as comfortable as possible for your children.

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