If you are grieving yourself it is important that you seek counselling or deal with your grief for your partner separately from your children. See our page on Grieving for further advice.
Children's ability to understand death and cope with complicated emotions increase with age. Knowing how much information to give your child and your desire to protect them from certain details may result in them not fully understanding what is going on and they will naturally have lots of questions, for example, was it their fault, where is the person now, what will happen to their body and spirit, will they or someone else close to them die?
Gear any information to what your child wants to know and use language that is appropriate for their age. For young children it might be useful to use play materials or encourage drawings as a way of explaining difficult concepts and encouraging them to express their feelings. Encourage older children to visit our Teen section on bereavement.
Here are some ways in which children may express their feelings following a death:
* Babies and young children may protest, become detached or show signs of depression. They may express their grief physically, for example bed wetting, soiling, sleep disturbances and crying.
* Older children may develop behavioural problems such as aggression, wanting to be babied, lack of concentration at school, acting up and generally misbehaving.
* Teenagers may express grief as any adult would but may also attempt to gain control by developing eating disorders or risk taking behaviour. They may have anxieties about being different from their peers. Older children and teenagers might also find it more difficult to cope if they have to take on more responsibility at home or assume more of an adult role.
Your child may, of course, display different expressions of grief from those listed above. You need to bear in mind that no two people grieve in the same way. Be careful not to assume that your child doesn't care or is not grieving "appropriately" because they do not cry, feel angry or seem to share the same feelings that you would expect of them. Be patient and if you do have serious concerns that they are not coping seek professional advice.
Children will often find it easier to open up to someone not closely involved in the death. Consider approaching your GP, school or one of the organisations listed under links to find a counsellor for your child. See also our Teen Section on Bereavement as this may give you further suggestions as to how to help your child, say goodbye and remember your loved one together as a family.
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