November is Children's Grief Awareness Month. Many have never heard of such and have no idea of the impact that loss has on children. During my many years in the cemetery business, I would often ask, "How are the children doing?" and the response was usually something along the lines of, "Oh, they are doing okay, better than we are doing." That might be what we think, but not necessarily true.
Children are very intuitive and connected to our emotions. When they see the sadness, they will often suppress their own sadness to not make us feel worse. Unfortunately, holding their emotions of grief and loss inside may not manifest until later in life, their teen years, or even adulthood. Many adults suffer from existential grief and only receive support when they are able to talk about what happened or did not happen during the loss of a loved one.
As adults we often feel we are shielding the children from such painful emotions and events by not sharing the reality with them, or even worse, by giving details that are untrue. When we give false details of a loss to a child, and they obtain the truth later in life, it creates negative or even harmful reactions. Grief in itself is a difficult subject to talk about, let alone talk about it to a child. Many questions arise. Should I tell them? Should they go to the funeral? What should I tell them or what part should I not tell them? At what age should they know what really happened? Will they understand? There is no rulebook or standard set to answer these questions, but when a death has occurred that directly or indirectly affects your child, please don't avoid the conversation.
Just the other day while having lunch with my five year old granddaughter, she started to tear. When I asked what was wrong, she replied, "I miss great-grandma." She was only 3 ½ years of age when my mother died, but as we chatted she recalled so many memories. Don't fall into the belief that our children can be left out of the grieving process because we "think" they are okay, or even too young to understand. Just as adults should get support to do the grief work, our children need support too. These are the ones who most often suffer in silence. There are support groups, organizations, online resources, and grief professionals that can help you.
The National Alliance for Children's Grief is an excellent resource to find information on children's grief and National Children's Grief Awareness Month. Let's not forget our beloved children.
As a bereavement care consultant with over 15 years experience in the death care industry, Dora Carpenter offers personal and professional development training in life transitions, grief, and fear. She is an author, speaker, coach, trainer, and mentor and has been recognized by the National Association of Distinguished Professionals as a professional in her field. More about Dora Carpenter at http://www.doracarpenter.com/the-grief-corner.
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