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If in doubt you should consult a professional.
For the parent losing a spouse, the problems of losing your spouse is often increased with the child's feelings of bereavement. As well as looking after yourself and your own feelings, you have a little person in your life – and they come first.
Over this piece we will look at how to support your child through bereavement of your spouse.
For a child, losing their parent is one of the hardest things they will ever face. They will go through a range of emotions and need a lot of support.
A number of factors have been shown to influence the way a child handles the loss of a parent.
- Were the parents living together? If you were, then the loss will be more acute.
- Was it a sudden or unexpected death such as a car crash?
- Any previous experience of death in their family or circle of friends.
- The way they are supported when the event happens.
The feelings of losing someone so close will be very powerful. The child may feel so sad that crying doesn't make them feel better. They may have an ache that they can't make feel better that can actually make them feel sick.
The depression they feel may stop them from wanting to do anything because they can't see any point in it – they may not want to see friends or go to school for instance. They may feel a loneliness that no one can change for them. They may feel angry, or blame someone in the family for what happened.
Sometimes however they may feel that they need to support the surviving parent and brothers and sisters.
The Grief Encounter website suggests that bereavement is an 'upward spiral'. From the depths of despair at losing a loved one, the bereaved feels better over time.
The best advice is to accept that the child will react to their parent's loss in their own way. Make sure that you keep the routines they are used to – feed them at normal times and keep to normal bedtimes.
Give cuddles and hugs, and listen to them as they talk about the way they feel. Talk to them, and don't be afraid to tell them how you feel as well.
If at all possible, get bereavement counselling. Experts will be able to help the child and will know what is going on for them.
Explain everything they ask, within reason. Children's fantasies can be more disturbing than the truth, so talking about their dreams and imagination should help allay their terror caused by their runaway minds.
Look after yourself
Remember, your child will look to you as the power of strength when you have both lost the same loved one. If you are not able to look after yourself then you won't be able to look after them.
Take bereavement counselling yourself, and make sure you observe the normal routines that keep you healthy and fit to carry the burden of your and your child's grief.