Grief is a hard emotion for many to experience. Everyone experiences it differently — there is no one “right” way to grieve. But when it comes to children, many adults still have misconceptions about how much grief and sadness over a loss a child can feel and experience.
Sometimes adults minimize the depth or complexity of emotions that children of all ages can experience. This is especially true when it comes to the loss of a close family member or loved one — even a pet. Grief is just as real for a child who is experiencing a loss as it is for the adult. Adults should keep that in mind, and not seek to minimize the loss, or otherwise discount the child’s reaction and emotions.
Children and teenagers experiences grief and sadness over the loss of a person or pet just as deeply as adults. Here are three myths associated with children’s grief.
Myth 1. Children Don’t Grieve
- Children grieve all losses in spurts, several times a day
- They re-grieve throughout all developmental stages
- Children don’t know they’re grieving or understand their feelings
Myth 2. Children Experience Few Losses
- Children experiences losses on a daily basis: At School: Sports, Grades, Competitions, Self Esteem, Relationships At Home : Control, understanding, dysfunctional family losses
- 1 of 7 loses a parent to death before age 10
Myth 3. Childhood is the Happiest Time of One’s Life
- A child will go through 6 developmental stages between birth and age 21
- Each stage is marked by a period of continuous change in cognition, feelings, and physical development
- Almost every area of life through each developmental stage is totally controlled by circumstances outside of the influence of the child
Remember, loss teaches an important part of life — all life comes with eventual death. You cannot shelter your child from harm, and you cannot shelter your child from loss, as much as you may like.
Instead, look upon the experience as a time to teach an important lesson about life and death. It doesn’t have to be a scary lesson, emphasizing that most people (and pets) live a long and full life. Instead, it should be focused on the fact that there is indeed a “circle of life,” that with every birth there will come a time when our life will end.
How deep and detailed your discussion is with your child depends on the age and maturity of your child — every child is different. Talking about it directly rather than whitewashing things with older or mature children is usually appreciated.