This is not an easy topic. Children process grief so differently than we do. But at the same time, we can’t ignore the fact that they do grieve. My children have reacted very differently to their loss. They were so young. However I can’t rule out that they may grieve later in life.
Ella has been the one from the very beginning who has struggled and continues to struggle with the ability to understand her grief. Ella went from being wild, somewhat out-going and confident to a very quiet, timid, and insecure girl. This kills me inside. It is heartbreaking to me that she does not see how amazing she is and how people truly like her. She gets overwhelmed very easily and will shut down completely. There are times I see that she tends to hold back showing others her fun side for reasons only she knows. She has not come to grips with everything. But she has come a long way and I know she will just keep healing as she learns to communicate her emotions.
Hunter up until recently has always been very open about his feelings. He has cried numerous times and he has shared with his best friend his feelings about losing his daddy. I find it very comforting that he feels safe enough to share such a painful experience with his “brudder”. But lately I am starting to see a change. He has told me he has lied to new classmates. Instead of saying his dad has passed away, he has told them that he “works out-of-town”. He is currently doing a unit on families in school and brought home a piece of scrapbook paper to decorate with pictures and words about our family. He was very excited and knew which pictures he wanted to use. He said he wanted “all of us including daddy”, his football picture, and our pets. I dug a bunch of pictures out and when we went to complete the paper, he began to get agitated. I began to ask him to pick his pictures. He did but left out all the ones that included Ryan. I asked him why he didn’t want them and he replied “I don’t want to deal with it.” He left the table crying. Usually he is opened to talking but as he gets older, he starting to shut down just like Ella. This was the same age she began to as well.
Only time will tell with Gracie. She has no actual memory. She talks about Ryan and asks a lot of questions. She is open with her little friends and tells them that her daddy is in heaven. She only knows her life as it is now.
I personally feel that age has a lot to do with how a child reacts to a loss and how they grieve. Some children will act out in a variety of ways (not sleep, separation issues, bed wetting, suicidal thoughts, etc). I feel as a parent it is our job to help them learn to deal with their feelings in positive ways without creating things that are not there. That is the key. Some days may just be bad days and have nothing to do with the loss they suffered. But none the less we need to be there to help them deal with all emotions no matter what is triggering them.
Here are some things I have tried with my children. I have used them mostly with Ella since she is the one who has shown the affects of her loss.
There are so many different types of therapy. I have had Ella try play therapy to traditional “talk” therapy. Bottom line….if they aren’t ready, they are not going to get anything out of it. It has taken 4 different attempts at therapy for Ella. We are finally making progress. She was not ready until now. So be patient.
I have read several books myself as well as to all of them (story books, workbooks). Did they get anything out of them~who knows but I have tried them 😉
I truly feel this is a great way for kids to work through their feelings. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy with prompts. A simple spiral notebook will do. Teach them to draw or write. Ella and I had one where we would write back and forth to one another for a time period. Now she has so many where she just does what she needs to do.
All children are different. All children react just like we do in different ways. It is our job to teach them how to express their feelings as well as respect them as well. We can’t force them to talk about anything. We can only encourage it. But I firmly believe in allowing them to heal in their own way, at their pace, and respecting them. Respect, acceptance, and your presence are the keys to helping anyone but especially a child deal with their emotions.