Contrary to previously held views, we now know that children grieve significant losses in their lives just as intensely as adults and we are here to help.
In grief, all of us, no matter our age, become an exaggerated version of ourselves. If we are extroverted, we become more so and the same is the case if we are quiet and withdrawn. Children are no different to adults. In addition, we all tend to feel much more vulnerable when we are grieving. This doesn’t mean we become childish, but often require special help and care, just as we did earlier in our lives. Similarly, children will regress, and their reactions and behaviour may be more like they were when they were much younger.
There are three important things we know will help children learn to live with grief and remain connected to life. The first is access to the truth. They need to know they can ask any question without fear of reprimand or of being ignored or patronised. Knowing that ‘in this family’, in ‘this situation’ they will be given truthful answers, albeit in an age appropriate manner, helps them retain trust in important adults in their lives, and in life in general.
The second is inclusion. Grieving children need to be included as much as possible in what is happening in the family. For example, being given the opportunity to spend time with the person they love who is dying or who has died, attending the funeral, and other rituals involving the family can help the child understand what death means and ensure they feel part of all that is happening.