Trauma of a child’s death can be especially severe for other children in the family who have to suddenly cope with the wrongful death of a sibling. Parents and/or the guardian of the child have a large role to play in helping grieving children cope with the death of a sibling.
Understanding how to help kids cope with death could help them do so in a healthy way that’s best for their short- and long-term mental health.
Prepare Before Speaking to Grieving Children
Parents should ideally prepare beforehand what they want to say to their kids on such occasions. A child’s mind may not process death in the same way as an adult’s, so explaining the situation in language they can understand is important. Be direct about death so as not to confuse them further, and calmly answer any questions they might have.
There are several books available that can address parents unsure of how to broach the subject or who need assistance getting the conversation started. In any case, be sure to begin the conversation with a calm demeanor.
Children look to their parents for assurance and guidance. So in the aftermath of a tragedy, it is critical that parents of a child who has lost a sibling compose themselves when speaking to the child. They should be calm themselves when talking with the child who will probably need much soothing.
Encourage Communication: Bottling Up Feelings Isn’t Helpful
The child should be encouraged to share feelings about the incident, be it resentment, anger, or hurt. Parents should also make every effort to answer the child’s questions objectively. The National Institutes of Health counsel that, “The child’s fear of the unknown is worse than facing the reality. The child may fantasize and create the worst scenario or an incorrect reality.”
If the child is comfortable speaking to others in the family or outside, like relatives or friends, then he or she should be allowed to communicate with them as much as possible. This will ensure that the child has the opportunity to speak up and share feelings.
Look Out for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Children who have experienced a traumatic event, like a sibling’s death, commonly experience:
- behavior changes; and
- reliving the experience.
Parents, teachers, and other caregivers should look for signs of stress and trauma long after the incident. They should be especially wary of deviations from the “baseline” behavior of the child.
They should also keep a lookout for any tendency of the child to become aggressive or violent. Some children with PTSD lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and may be susceptible to depression and other emotional problems.
The parents and/or the guardian of a child exhibiting symptoms of PTSD after wrongful death of a sibling should consult a mental health professional immediately. It is imperative to treat symptoms right away to help the child cope with death.
Legal Help in Wrongful Death Cases
Parents of a child killed because of another’s negligence—stemming from medical malpractice, a car accident, or any other form of negligent behavior—can file a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for damages. Examples of damages may include any medical treatment administered and the child’s pain and suffering prior to death as well as the emotional impact on surviving family members, among other damages.
Cordisco & Saile LLC provides legal assistance to plaintiffs who want to fight for justice after a loved one has been killed in a case of wrongful death. Give us a call at 215-642-2335 to set up a consultation with an attorney to go over the details of a potential or existing wrongful death case.