Carol Lee's Top Tips on supporting children who are grieving
-Answer any questions in clear, honest and age appropriate way. Keep the information and language simple, children will always ask more questions if they feel you are open to talking.
-If asked give a factual explanation of what death means; for example ‘it is when someone’s body stops working, they stop breathing and they can no longer, see, hear, smell or taste.
-Use factual words like death and died rather than perceived ‘softer’ words such as passed away, passed on and gone to heaven. Children get confused by these euphemisms as they will take what you say literally
-Give plenty of opportunity for cuddles and tactile play such as water play, sand tray, modelling and making things. Such play will have a sensual quality that will help soothe the child and release those ‘feel good’ chemicals.
-Reassure them that what happened is nothing to do with anything they did or didn’t do. Many children harbour feelings of it being their fault in some way, ‘if only I’d been nicer, done as I was told, tidied my room etc’ maybe it wouldn’t have happened.
-Give time and a listening ear if they wish to share memories.
-Be open about your feeling; if you knew the person too, express your sadness. Children learn how to express their feelings by watching the adults around them.
Carol Lee has written two books aimed at 5-9 year olds, 'Saying Goodbye to Hare' and 'Remembering Hare'. They were written after Carol helped her two sons, then aged seven and nine, cope with the illness and death of their father, Andy, who died a year and a day after being diagnosed with cancer. A great resource to support adults to help children understand the concepts of death and dying.