timberland wallet How parents can help children understand death and grief
How parents can help children understand death and grief, explained by an expertOne in 29 UK children will suffer the death of a parent and our approach isn’t always that healthy11:05, 25 NOV 2017Updated11:13, 25 NOV 2017Experiencing a loss early on in life is very traumatic and has a lasting impact ‘Denial of death’ is becoming increasingly commonplace, but getting over this reticence is particularly important when helping a child understand and cope with their grief.Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE, founder of Grief Encounter lost her mother at age four, then her father five years later.Her experience of the grief and shock waves such losses cause informs the important work the charity does to help children and their families through a painful and life changing time.But how do you explain the death of a loved one to a child? How can you help them through their grief when, as adults. we struggle with the magnitude of the situation?”What a teacher once said to me, ” explains Dr Gilbert “is if a child’s old enough to ask, they’re old enough to hear the answers.”To help us change the way we view child bereavement, the mum of four has shared her and Grief Encounter’s wisdom with Mirror Online on what to say and what to do when a child suffers a loss.1. Don’t avoid the topic for fear of upsetting the child Children get the message that death is a difficult and painful subject very quickly make an environment where they can ask questions, be listened to and can hear answers.2. But remember, children take things literally Use honest words.We’d advise against saying ‘gone to sleep’ and other euphemisms as these are confusing and don’t convey the finality of what’s happened.That said,
one family were very honest with their little boy about his grandmother’s death, explaining how she would not be coming back, and that her body was put in a coffin and buried.He asked, if her body was in the coffin, then where was her head!3. It’s also OK to say ‘I don’t really know’ Once you have created those opportunities for them to grieve and ask questions, depending on factors such as religion and personal beliefs, there may be questions you can’t answer.It’s OK to tell the child ‘I don’t really know’.Jeff Brazier is a huge supporter of the charity, and has done several podcasts for them4. And it’s also OK to say ‘I can’t tell you now, but I will one day’ A mother who was dealing with her husband taking his own life promised her children she would fully explain his death to them in the future.That’s a conversation no one wants to have or hear, but saying this keeps the conversation open and importantly the child knows this.5. Accept that children are emotionally and psychologically damaged by bereavement As a society we measure grief in a certain way which isn’t helpful.You can’t measure the depth of grief in feet, or the ‘time’ it takes to ‘get over’ your grief how long is a piece of string?We look at the wrong measures suicide, teenage pregnancy. Everyone does it differently and there is no getting through all the stages of grief.