Children become strongly attached to certain people, most of the time family members who they have a special bond with and connect with better than anyone else. Sometimes that person is mom, grandma, dad, grandpa, an aunt or uncle, or even a family friend. But what if the person that child adores suddenly passes away? How does it affect the child? How do children cope and deal with their emotions? Or do they even understand? After a recent family tragedy, I feel I may have an answer. Although, all children are different and react in various ways, I can tell you how it happened for my little one.
For my 6-year-old daughter, it was her grandma, her best friend, her best buddy, the only person she ever really connected with. My mom just passed away suddenly, and my first thought was "How am I going to tell Hailey? She's going to be devastated!" I was babysitting two other children when I received "the call", so there was not much I could do but wait until they went home. My dad, "Grandad", came back later that day and helped me tell Hailey what happened. We told her the news from a Christian perspective, which was "Grandma went to live with Jesus and your baby brother." It broke my heart to see her confused look and then a stream of tears fall down her cheeks. My poor baby has just lost her best friend who she loved dearly, and there's nothing I can do to change it.
Keep in mind, some (most) children will use this as an opportunity to get extra sympathy and, as all kids like, presents. All I can say is DON'T GIVE IN, GIVE LOVE! Show you child more love, hugs, kisses, cuddles, and lots of extra time just you and them. But don't buy them presents just because they make you think it will make them feel better. Chances are, it WON'T make them feel better, and they will just use that excuse again the next time they want something. You might as well write the word "Sucker" across your forehead. Kids do need sympathy and extra love after losing a loved one, but don't let them think they can get away with anything just because they're sad.
What to watch for:
Children who have been emotionally hurt can react differently. There are many signs you should watch for that could indicate your child may need to visit with a counselor to help them deal with their emotions. Some of these signs are: abnormal behavior, unusual poor behavior at school or at home, distancing themselves from friends or family, crying alone, loss of interest in activities they normally enjoy, and signs of depression. Anyone can develop depression, even children, and it should not be ignored. Children who show signs of depression should be encouraged to visit a counselor who can help them overcome their sadness and deal with their emotions better. Personally, I suggest family counseling for the loss of a family member because young children usually don't open up to a stranger, but with parents in the room, the child is more likely to express themselves.