April 6, 2017
When a Child Loses a Loved One, Part 2
When your child experiences the loss of a loved one, life for him will never the same again. In my last blog post, I shared the stages of grief, and how your child sees and experiences life after such great loss.
Now, you, the parent, must be honest with your grieving child, being mindful to give information in an age-appropriate manner. Answer his questions and model authenticity for him. Include your child in every stage of decision-making that has to do with his own personal grieving, so that he has options and choices, which reasserts his sense of integrity.
How do we help children grieve? You must make sure that:
Your grieving child gets plenty of rest.
He should eat a balanced diet.
He gets plenty of water to drink.
His daily routine includes some exercise, but remember that fatigue is often a characteristic of both loss and depression.
He meets with other children in therapeutic groups such as those offered by the Compassionate Friends. Here your grieving child can stay connected to children who have experienced a similar personal story. It is through relating to other children in cohesive groups that allows the grieving child to begin to model successful survival skills.
Your child may need psychoanalytic therapy and medication, so both a psychiatrist and pediatrician should be incorporated into a healing time to support him and help him stay healthy, while under extreme stress.
Meeting at the edge of this crossroad of life at such a tender age is a wounding that often makes injured children very empathic. Allow your child to attend funerals if he wants to, so that there is a sense of reality and closure to this unthinkable event.
Depending upon your child’s age, there are positive outlets that can help him express his feelings when speaking is too difficult. He should be allowed to participate in the rituals that say goodbye. Encourage your grieving child to express and vent shock, anger, fear and pain. Caretakers and professionals, as well as teachers and clergy, can all join together to help your child stay connected to life. A grief team of adults can re-establish his trust and support in an unsafe world.
In today’s world, your child has many opportunities to distract himself from grief and delay healing. Whether it is video games, YouTube, television, or movies, the outcome is the same: a disassociation from feelings. Therefore, it is important to facilitate opportunities for your child to integrate his feelings of loss, so that he can once again emerge as individuated.
Sound therapies that connect him back to his observational ego, so that he can reflect upon and express his true feelings and sense of who he is, can be helped through role playing, dance therapy, art, singing and psychotherapy. This helps your child release the psychological blocks that have thrown him back to an earlier, more primitive stage of development.
These strategies bring to consciousness the trauma and help the child sort out his feelings. It is only through this reconnection of the child to his center that allows for healing.
The emotional energy of grief can transcend and by transcending, be transformed into life. Joy and vitality can once again be expressed creatively when the energy that is used to repress trauma and injury is released.
Children who grieve can live again, and by grieving, move through the paralysis of despair and the empty void of helplessness, through to the journey towards wholeness.