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Your grandfather has gone to sleep, god took your friend away…. Words like these can be confusing and gruesome for little minds and they may never get closure. Read this full article to understand how to help kids cope with the loss of loved ones.

This pandemic has shown the world the worse that could happen to mankind. It is unfortunate that we all have heard series of sad news like a mother died post-delivery leaving behind an infant, a father died leaving behind 2 young children and a wife who never worked or has any financial support, a grandmother who just retired and was planning her vacation with her friends was on death bed now. Death has never been so close and scary and the loss is more intense when a child has lost someone very close like a parent or a sibling.

Upon the death of a family member, we adults grieve, and later, though we find it difficult, we get back to our normal lives as we need to. But little minds find it too difficult to reciprocate, to share, to grieve, to cry, and to even understand what is happening and why all this happened. To cope up with death and grief is not easy for them. In this article we shall talk about understanding age-appropriate grieving, helping children cope with loss, answer their questions, getting back to routine, and storing memories of loved ones.

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How do kids grieve upon or deal with Death?

This list will help find the signs of grief in children, age-wise, to help adults help the children in grief.

1. Infants & Toddlers – birth to 2 years

They have no understanding of death but they can understand the separation. They may increase crying, changed eating or sleeping patterns can be observed. They can also sense the sadness around them.

2. Preschoolers – 3 to 6 years

These kids are more curious about death, just like any other topic, and ask plenty of questions. Preschoolers may assume they did something wrong and hence the person has left them and will be hoping for the person’s return. They may find difficulty in sleeping, aggression, and irritability would become their way of reacting as they cannot put their feelings in words.

3. School-age Older kids – 7-12 years

Kids of this age can understand that death is permanent and start worrying about who will take care of them, what if the other caregiver or themselves die soon? Loads of emotions pass by them, like anger, scare, guilt, sadness, and anxiety.

4. Teenagers – 13-18 years

Have a complete understanding of death and the practical consequences this death shall personally cause to them. Kids of this age undergo mixed emotions and are well aware to deal with them, but they mostly act out in anger at family members. Most of the time they isolate themselves as they find it difficult to share or talk to other family members.

Tips to help kids Cope up with Death & Grief

1. Encourage them to talk and ask questions and answer them promptly. Be clear, honest, and direct when you explain death to your child by giving age-appropriate details. For example, you can explain how the body stopped functioning basis the type of death, and hence the person is going to be no more with us.

2. Euphemisms like “gone to sleep”, “passed away”, “God took him away”, etc. must be avoided as they bring hope in them, assume sleeping can kill them, god is bad and many things in their little mind gets multiplied to dangerous assumptions.

3. Make sure they are not to be blamed for the death at any cost. You were a bad boy and hence he left you and now be good to your mom – This can be highly damaging when the child has witnessed the death of a family member.

4. Share your grief with the child, explain to him how you too are missing the loved one, crying is ok but avoid any emotional explosions in front of children. Reassure that grieving is alright and expressing is important. If you are not in a situation to talk, any other family member can help you with this but ensure the person is in line with your thoughts and doesn’t make any further damaging talks.

5. If you are worried about your child’s behavior, watch the signs of grief in the child and take help from mental health professionals. Some of them can be being angry and shouting all the time, school grades beginning to slide, isolating herself, a talkative child turning too quiet, etc.

Getting closure

Most of us do this major mistake of not talking about the death and keeping them away from religion-based after-death rituals, even on the death of a family member. Every religion follows different methods and attending a funeral is the best way to pay respect to the deceased, watch him for the last time, grieve over his death and support his family at times needed. Though I feel this is important, it is also necessary to prepare your child for this intense event, and never force if the child is not ready to.

Pooja or Prayer meetings can also help the child understand death and relate to the new situations after the death. Young children can collect the pictures and create a memory book, paint or draw about them, go to their favorite place, plant a tree in their name, go to their burial, and so on with the help of adults.

Getting back to routine

The death of a close family member or a parent can affect a child’s day-to-day life undoubtedly. Looking at the sadness around, they may find it wrong to smile, play or indulge in activities that make them happy. You can talk to them that death is inevitable but life has to go on with their memories in mind.

The surviving parent may have to pitch in and play both the roles by dividing the time between work and child care leaving the child in distress. Again here, talking to them about financial burdens, and the new responsibilities you need to take up will be helpful.

Video: How to Help Kids Cope with the Loss of Loved Ones

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