What a child feels is often hard to read, especially when they are exposed to the death of a family member or friend. In their world, this emotion is hard to comprehend. They may express their hurt, fear and sadness in a variety of ways, some that don't make sense on the surface. Looking out for these common expressions of grief can be the best way to provide the support they need to get them through.
Guilt: As children often do with any kind of change, they look to see something they may have done to cause the situation. He or she may feel that they are responsible for not being "better" in some way. If they had expressed anger to the person recently, that guilt can be compounded.
Anxiety and Fear: This is probably one of the most common reactions. The child may wonder if someone else they love may die and, if the loved one was a parent, there is an overriding concern as to who will take care of them. Many times a child will cling to loved ones and look for constant validation of their love.
Regression: The child may revert to behaviors he or she had previously outgrown, especially small children. This may include bedwetting, thumb-sucking or other habits they had worked to stop.
Sadness: Quiet is a sure sign of sadness. Inactivity, solitude, all of these are signals that the child is suffering and unable to process his or her grief.
Being on the lookout for these signs can speed up the process of helping a child through the grieving process. As in cases with anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one, the key is being there, listening and trying your best to understand.
Information for this blog was taken from My Careletter and an article reprinted with permission from the SIDS Foundation of Washington .