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Is this Normal?

September 15, 2016

Tu Nidito receives hundreds of referrals each year. Parents, caregivers and community members call, not only to ask questions about services, but to share what their children are going through. One of the most common questions asked is “Is this normal?” Parents want to be reassured that what their child is going through is a common grief related characteristic. While everyone’s grief journey is different here are some common factors to remember when supporting a grieving child.

  1. Children need to be repeatedly reassured that their physical needs (place to eat and sleep) and emotional needs (love) will be met. Remember a grieving child’s life has been turned upside down. It is important for them to have a stable environment to safely heal.
  2. Children need to be told of the circumstances of the death in language they can understand. Use age appropriate words and concepts to explain the death. For example, their body stopped working.
  3. In discussing death with a child, do not use the words sleep or gone away or other euphemisms for the word died. By using real words, it will remove the idea that death is temporary.
  4. Children should be allowed and encouraged to talk about deceased loved ones when they are ready. Adults in the family should also be encouraged to talk about the deceased loved ones in the presence of the children.  Keep memories alive for the child.
  5. Daily tasks/schedules are important to children who are grieving. Children tend to feel safer when their routine is maintained as much as possible.
  6. Refrain from making any unnecessary changes in the child’s life if possible. One of the most important factors in helping a child to walk a healthy grief journey is a stable environment to heal. If possible make no major changes in their daily life.
  7. Children who have experienced loss through death often fear for the lives of other family members. Reassure them that you are still there to care for them and if in the unlikely event that something were to happen to you, they will always have a safe place to go. Share that plan with them if needed.
  8. It is important for children to be given the option to attend the funeral. Prepare the child for what they will experience and have a family member or close family friend attend to the child at the service.
  9. Help the child to understand that their loved one will always be alive in their heart and in their memories. Create special times to remember and honor their special person.

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