Helping Young Children Cope with Losing a Loved One

When a family suffers a wrongful death because of to an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, it is certainly a devastating experience for every member. But the deepest feelings of loss and grief are usually felt by young children; only because they young don’t understand when a parent or sibling has been taken away from them forever.

Granted, they see images of death daily on television.  But it’s an abstract experience with no real emotional attachment. How can grieving family members provide the extra support that children need to keep them from feeling alone, frightened and vulnerable?

Many experts suggest facing the situation head-on; but combining that truth with tenderness as all members of your family look to reinforce your anger, fear, sadness, confusion, doubt, and guilt. You understand those feelings, you’ve been coping with death as well.

Psychologists and child development experts from the National Association of Social Workers suggest the following.

  • Tell your child about the death as soon as possible. It’s best they hear it from you rather than someone else. Set the tone that lets them know they can count on you for the truth.
  • Choose a quiet and familiar setting such as your back yard, their bedroom or favorite place at a nearby park.
  • Use simple words: the younger the child, the simpler your explanation. Speak in simple terms and listen carefully to the responses. Calmly follow his or her lead and share a bit more if confusion arises.  Show your love, offer reassurance and reinforce that you and the rest of the family will be there for them.
  • If your child is emotionally able to attend the funeral, help them embrace the experience. But don’t force them to attend. Explain that it’s a chance to say goodbye, many will attend to do just that, some will cry, and it’s all right for them to cry too.

The child’s age will affect their reactions and emotions. For children under two years old, soothe them when they need it and consistently stick to your previous schedules For children ages three-five, speak naturally, help them express their feelings, expect behavior changes, try to anticipate their fears, and be patient and loving.

Children ages six-12 need necessarily the same care and attention. And though they’re able to verbalize their feelings better, their behavior might be harder to anticipate. Their questions might be more complicated, but they still respect simple, truthful answers. The most important thing is to let them know it’s OK to share their real feelings and concerns with you.

Consider talking to an expert, even if your child shows no signs of problems. If you’ve lost a spouse (which means they’ve lost a parent), both of you will benefit from at least a “check-in” conversation with a therapist very soon after the death. A professional can suggest coping mechanisms for both you and the child. Early intervention can keep small problems from becoming much larger ones.

Cordisco & Saile LLC has experience with wrongful death claims and can offer a sympathetic support for your legal troubles. Call (215) 642-2335 or fill out our online contact form to speak with a wrongful death lawyer.