A child will go through stages of grief that will move them through the grief process. How long each stage will be experienced will depend on the individual child. The grief of a child is very complicated and must be completely understood before the child can be helped.
The first stage of a child's grief might be a state of shock. The child will not completely understand what has happened and it is up to the parent to help them to understand what death means. Once the child has been made to understand they may express their emotion with anger and temper tantrums. In younger children there may be some regressive behavior like thumb sucking and bed-wetting. They may also be afraid of being without an adult and will become clinging. Their concentration might be affected as well.
You can help a child through this stage by keeping their life structured and predictable. When they are acting out in anger, it is important to help them to work out their anger and emotion by talking instead of acting out. Let them know that they can express their feelings and emotions with words that will be listened to by the adults in their life. They should also feel comfortable letting an adult know when they are worried or having a difficult time with their feelings.
Once a child moves beyond this stage they will enter a period of transition. This is a period in the grief process that could lead to depression in the child. They may have a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. It is common for a child to experience a withdrawal and giving up in school during this time. It is very important that the child overcomes this period and family counseling may help them.
The transition stage will eventually lead to a period of reorganization. This can only happen if the previous period is dealt with properly. During the final stage there will be a renewed sense of energy and motivation. It is a clear sign that the child is moving away from their grief. During this stage there may be moments where the pain that comes from the loss will come back to the child. They could stumble across something that causes a painful memory and the feelings that they had in the beginning stages of grief will all come back to them. Children may not understand what is happening to them and it is up to their parents or adults in their life to help them through these difficult times. As adults we all understand that the feeling of loss will never truly leave us and the same is true for a child.
For more free resources, visit http://www.thecbtcoach.com - Julia Sorensen is the author of “Overcoming Loss Stories and Activities to Help Children Transform Grief and Loss" Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers