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Children who are bereaved

Children who are bereaved

  • Modeling
    Especially by surviving parents and family members. Helpful modelling communicates to the child: “It’s okay to grieve”, “I’m sad too”, “I want to be there for you” (This can be very difficult). If we hide our grieving and model “strength” – we, in effect, teach children that grieving is a weakness rather than a necessary part of healing.
  • Truth
    Children need truth and knowledge that connects with their curiosity and level of childhood development. Children want to know that we will do our best to answer their questions honestly. We don’t need to give answers to questions not asked nor do we need to always have an answer. We do need to communicate that it’s okay to ask and that we’ll never lie. Sometimes: “I don’t know”, “let’s see if we can find out”, etc. are ok responses.
  • Reassurance
    A child whose parent or a sibling has died has a natural fear that other family members, especially the remaining parent, may also die and leave them. Bereaved children may also worry that they too, will die. These children need realistic and practical reassurance which may include some temporary allowances for more attachment than normal (example: sleeping with a parent for awhile, more one-on-ones).
  • Availability
    It seems that children are rarely ready to cry, talk, share or ask questions when it’s convenient to our time schedule. Children often blind-side us with their grieving needs. We have to be ready “seize the moment”.
  • Revisiting
    A child will usually need to revisit the meaning of their loss and the way they grieve that loss as time goes on. For example, the meaning of the death and the understanding of the loss changes significantly from age 4, to 10, to 18.
  • To remain children
    Children have already lost enough childhood innocence with the death of a family member. They do not need to be told they can no longer enjoy their childhood because they are expected to “be strong for mommy” or “be the man (woman) of the house now”.
    Ken Westereng (B.A., M. Div.)

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