natural instinct of a parent is to protect their child from
harm or loss of any kind. Sadly, death is not an area of over
which we have much control. Loss and death are an inescapable
part of our daily experiences whether in the form of a beloved
maid who leaves, a treasured toy that gets lost, the death
of a baby bird or more seriously of a pet or sometimes tragically
of a loved one. The ability to cope with loss of any kind
in a functional and constructive manner is a vital life skill
that parents must inculcate in their children.
rural and semi - rural communities, children grow up exposed
to a natural cycle of life and death as seen in the fields,
farms or even the parks and gardens in which they play. They
see plants and animals dying and being born on a regular basis.
It is therefore easier to understand and accept that there
are certain natural rhythms and seasons in life. In today's
concrete jungles, however, things seem to go on forever, there
are few natural rhythms around for children to understand
and learn from, and they live in a world of instant gratification
and phony suffering as seen on TV. Death or loss when it comes
is therefore, a greater shock to these children.
is a natural reaction to loss. It could be a reaction to simple
loss or to death. There are normally three stages in grieving
- denial, anger, and sadness. It is important that the grieving
process should be allowed to run the full course as only then
can healing begin. If it is arrested at any stage there is
always a danger of future problems arising. So often parents
have the problem of not only coping with their own grief but
also helping the child to deal with his loss. Sometimes parents
hide their own feelings in order to spare the child. In doing
so, they may inadvertently be teaching the child to suppress
her feelings and also giving the message that grief is not
normal or all right.
to help your child cope with grief: -
Never try to avoid or minimize the loss - whatever the nature
of the loss, the fact remains that the child is grieving.
Minimizing or trivializing will not change the feelings
but will make her ashamed or guilty as well and will also
cause her to hide such feelings from you in future. When
the cause is death of a loved one it becomes even more essential
to face the facts squarely and make it clear to her that
you are suffering as well. This does not mean that you should
frighten her by becoming dysfunctional from grief yourself,
but it does mean that she should know that you share her
grief and that experiencing grief is normal.
it clear to the child that the death or loss is not her
fault. Very young children, particularly, often believe
that they have caused whatever is wrong. They therefore
tend to suffer from unnecessary guilt unless reassured by
care of yourself - if you yourself are in a bad shape let
your family and neighbours look after the child till you
are more able to cope.
the child things to do - an occupied child has less time
that grief takes time. Don't overreact to sudden and violent
fits of anger that are a normal part of the grieving process.
At the same time don't consider this as a license for consistent
the intensity of the reaction is disproportionate to the magnitude
of the loss. A child may be heart broken over the loss of
a toy but may show hardly any reaction to the loss of a pet.
This could be because of the fact that he does not dare to
show or feel the loss in its completeness. It could also be
that the grief is expressed in crying over relatively unimportant
events while the child remains dry eyed for the actual cause
of his grief. Sometimes however, the grief may be suppressed
for years at a time in which case expert help may be needed.