Dealing with the loss of a child is quite a task. It affects everyone in the family ranging from the parents to the siblings, all the way to other relatives and friends.
Many times, people tend to focus more on the parents and tend to leave the kids, especially the school going ones unattended to. Just because they are hyperactive does not mean that they will get over it as fast. One should be ready to assist in their healing process to see them safely through it.
Some of the ways to help the grieving school kids through the healing are illustrated below.
Take an open approach to answering their questions regarding death- curiosity in children is natural, not only with the death of their sibling but pertaining to their environmental surrounding in general. Give them honest answers, always making your explanations as simple as they can be.
Consider the fact that they are growing and one day will learn the truth. The aftermath of discovering that you lied to them, and especially over a siblings death, can be quite tragic. It will be a disappointment, take the bulls by the horns, and gently break down your explanations, not so much to scare them away though.
The word ‘death’- many people feel the need to replace this word with other phrases such as lost, unending sleep, gone away, became an angel, and so on. This should not be the case even when dealing with the kids.
Dealing with the loss of a child.
Death is a natural process of life, and this should be clearly explained to the children. Otherwise, you are likely to cause more damage by creating confusion in the child- they will be left wondering what sort of sleep is this that their sibling won’t wake up from yet they themselves retire to bed in the evening only to be woken up in the morning to prepare for school.
Avoiding the word death further makes them fearful like it is something that should be avoided at all costs. That death is a gross master who took away their sibling makes them live in fear of ever meeting ‘him’ someday. Your child may therefore never heal from the whole situation but instead, come out of it with a lifetime phobia. Use the word carefully and explain as required for them to understand and embrace it as a mere process of life that we all go through at one point in life.
Make no assumptions that a child will grasp everything quickly- embrace yourself for the possibility of being asked a similar question over and over until they are able to digest what they are being told. This is natural with kids, the loss of a loved one aside.
This is likely to trigger your emotions, as it will constantly remind you of the child’s death, but then again your school going kid needs to understand what happened. Knowing that you will expect help in equipping you to deal with the pain when you are faced with the challenge, it won’t come as a shocker.
Letting the kids understand death as they continue asking about it enables them to process and digest it in their minds at their paces, consequently leading to their intellectual and emotional growth.
Not knowing certain things- some of the questions they are likely to ask you might not be able to answer. What happens then? Admit the truth- let them know you do not have the answer, this is not a weakness.
Consider the question like, “What does it feel like to die?” An answer to such a question doesn’t exist unless of course you have died and risen! So instead of lying, explain to them that death occurs once, leaves us who are left behind with pain, and requires that we move on bravely until it is our time.
Grieving and healing takes time even with the children- the only challenging part is the fact that they will always turn to us for support, thereby reminding us of this painful loss. Sometimes, especially when they still don’t understand what this is about, don’t get surprised that a sick pet makes them cry instead of their deceased sibling. Just let them be.
Children also get mixed up emotions, more so as they try to understand what is happening around them. They may feel the guilt of the death coming as a result of their bad behaviour, get scared that death might come for them thereby wanting to be in your arms all the time. Embrace these emotions with calmness and love, as you try to put things straight until they are able to come through.
Where they feel like keeping to themselves, give them space, but also assure them that can talk to you once they are ready for a discussion. Pressurizing them to deal with grieve the way you feel appropriate only serves to create more pain and distance themselves away from you.
Letting them know how you feel- do not create that aura of a brave lion when we all know that is not the case when dealing with the loss of a child. Expressing your emotions while taking control of them is a nice way of teaching the child to do the same. Children learn from examples.
No one probably wishes to have their kids see them falling apart, there is this thing that you need to be strong for them. But then again our emotions are a natural part of us, which even a Hercules can succumb to. Admit and assure them that crying is as normal as laughing, with the latter being an expression brought about by this particular loss of a child whom you equally loved.
Dealing with the loss of a child cuts across the entire family, so handling it while carefully considering everyone’s pain is helpful in ensuring you all move together towards healing. Sticking together as a family in such situations will enable your school going kid overcome the loss and resultantly impact admirable traits in them.