Children experience and express loss differently than adults. They have special needs to enable them to move forward. Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D, discusses mourning needs for children who have suffered a significant loss. These mourning needs can help children heal through their journey of grief.
Need 1: Accept the Death
The first mourning need is to accept the death. It’s difficult for any child to accept that their loved one is gone and their life will be forever changed. Children may try to imagine that the loss never really happened; this is okay and perfectly normal. Eventually, with time and support from trusting adults in their life, children will learn to accept this difficult loss.
Need 2: Feel the Sadness
The second mourning need of the child is the need to feel the sadness. Children do not have to feel sad all the time because quite frankly, it isn’t very much fun to feel sad. We need to allow and encourage children to have fun and let them feel good! As caring adults, we need to make ourselves available to children when they do have their sad moments.
Need 3: Remember the Person
The third mourning need is to remember the person who died. As adults, we need to encourage children to talk about the person who died, share memories, and look at pictures.
Need 4: Accept that Life is Different Now
The fourth mourning need has to do with helping children accept that their life is different now. Their life has changed and so has their family. Their life will never be the same again, but that doesn’t mean that they will never be happy again.
Need 5: Think About why it Happened:
The fifth mourning need encourages children to think about why this loss happened. This is a very difficult question to answer, especially for a child. Talking to a trusted adult about the “why’s” in life can help a child “make sense” of their loss.
Need 6: Allow Others to Help the Child:
The sixth mourning need has to do with allowing others to help the child who has suffered a loss: now and always! It’s important for children to have adults in their life that they can trust and who are always there for them, no matter what. The process of grief is hard work; that is why it’s important to have people who are supportive to help us through it. We need to let children know that it is okay to ask for help.
For information about programs available to help children who have experienced a loss, please contact Pathways of Hope at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, 937.258.4991.