what can help – accidental
For children bereaved as the result of an accident the world can now seem like a scary place. Children need a lot of repeated reassurance that they are safe and loved and that although accidents do happen, they are rare. It is important to remind them more than once that nothing they did could have caused or prevented what happened, as this can take some time to sink in.
managing your own anxiety
Children are very attuned to the feelings of those around them. If you are struggling with your own fears and anxiety resulting from the death, try and find ways to manage this so that you can provide calm reassurance about their safety.
encourage and normalise feelings
Children are likely to experience a range of emotions which may sometimes catch them off-guard. Try and find time to explore different ways they can express their emotions, such as making a collage out of colours that represent their feelings, journal writing, making relaxing playdoh, creating a feelings wheel. See our resources sections for some creative resources that might help. If they are finding it hard to regulate their emotions, take a look at our blog which has lots of ideas on this.
keep having fun
It is normal and healthy for children to dip in and out of their grief; one minute they may be sad and saying how they miss their loved one, and the next minute they are laughing and playing. This is very common in younger children and is often referred to as ‘puddle jumping.’ It can feel uncomfortable for adults who worry that if a child is happy and playing it means they are not grieving. However, it is an important part of healthy grief for children to engage in normal activities and to have fun with their friends. As children get older, they may feel a sense of guilt for having fun and doing normal things. It’s important to let them know that it’s ok to still have fun and laugh, it doesn’t mean that they no longer care about, or have forgotten their loved one.
remind them it's ok to talk
When children are aware that their care givers are also grieving, they tend to want to protect them by shielding them from their own thoughts, feelings and questions. It’s important to remind them regularly that you are there for them to talk to about anything that’s on their mind. The Be Right Back Jar is a really helpful way to aid this communication.
It is a natural instinct to want to shield and protect children from upsetting things, and so many adults try their best to hide their own grief from their children and save it for when they are out or in bed. However, children look to the adults around them for their learning in all sorts of situations, particularly around how to react to life events. This is no different with grief; they will be watching to see how the adults around them are reacting and will take this as what is normal and expected of them too; therefore, if they only see people putting on brave and happy faces and never showing their sadness, they will believe that this is how they should behave. This can mean that their true feelings can get pushed down instead of being shared. It is helpful to model grief in your own reactions, but it is also important to explain them to children. For instance, it’s ok to cry in front of children but explain to them why and reassure them that it is not anything they have done; “Mummy is crying because she misses Daddy and that makes her feel sad. It’s not because you have done anything wrong.” Sharing your emotions also gives space to encourage children to share their emotions with you; “It’s ok to cry if you feel sad, but it’s also ok to feel lots of different things – how do you feel today?”