Childhood Mourning: 3 Misconceptions

When a loved one passes away, children suffer as much and more than adults. Childhood bereavement is a complex and often underestimated pain.
Childhood bereavement: 3 misconceptions

Every person inevitably suffers in their life, including children. Precisely in the case of the youngest, it becomes difficult to decipher the causes and consequences of this state. Although childhood bereavement is often overcome without major complications, it is good to clarify how a child processes this path to encourage the adoption of effective support strategies.

If you wish to intervene on infantile bereavement, first of all you need to dispel what may be erroneous, and often widespread, beliefs about it. This will allow you to help the child in the best way.  

Child from behind in front of the sea.

What exactly is infant bereavement?

Childhood bereavement is an emotional response that emerges following the loss of a loved one and involves distinct phases. Even the death of a pet can trigger this tremendous pain. But it can also have to do with other situations such as a parental dismissal or divorce, for example.

According to the Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler Ross, mourning consists of 5 phases; a succession of attitudes and mental states in which emotions vary until they reach acceptance. Each person will live this experience in their own way and will go through these stages differently.

  • Denial. The person cannot believe what happened and uses denial to defend themselves from the pain they feel. His mind tries to find a way to maintain well-being despite the state of maximum helplessness.
  • Ira. It appears when the loss becomes real and is finally accepted. There is frustration and helplessness in the face of what has happened.
  • Negotiation. At this stage, the goal is to find a way to reverse the situation. In the case of the death of a loved one, one can resort to religious or supernatural beliefs. Emotional pain is stronger than at any other stage.
  • Depression. The person falls into strong despair and sadness due to the feeling of helplessness.
  • Acceptance. Finally, the loss is accepted as irreversible. Unlike the previous phase, however, the person realizes that he can live with this loss. It is the moment when, looking back, it grows.

It is important to keep in mind that children can experience this process differently, especially if they are very young. During the first few years of life they are generally physically and emotionally dependent, and they also cannot understand death and its consequences. They notice the absence of the person, experiencing feelings of abandonment and lack of protection.

Myths about childhood bereavement to dispel

It is common to have certain misconceptions about childhood bereavement , thinking that it is very different from that of adults. While it is plausible that there are different nuances in the two cases, there are many others in common.

The important thing is to make children feel loved and protected, even if a loved one is no longer part of their life.

Children don’t realize what’s going on

The most dangerous mistake that can be made is to believe the priors that the little ones feel nothing. It is true that a child does not have a full perception of death, but he will notice substantial changes in his environment. Hence, he will miss the deceased person and see that the adults around him are going through a complicated time.

This idea doesn’t allow children to get the support they need. Losing a loved one is very difficult for them too and they need love, attention and understanding more than ever.

Little girl experiencing childhood mourning.

Childhood mourning does not last long

It is often believed that missing someone for a long time is a sign of weakness. Some parents therefore push their children to overcome their pain as quickly as possible.

This attitude, however, generates excessive pressure on the little ones. Not only will they have to deal with the pain, but also with the feeling of not meeting the expectations of mom and dad. Understand that children (and teens too) may need more time to properly mourn.

Not all deaths make the child suffer

Some people believe that not all deaths cause pain in the baby. But the emotional universe does not respond to rigid patterns and the child could suffer greatly from a loss that in the eyes of adults could be less “complicated”. This is the case, for example, of a pet or an acquaintance or family member who is not very close.

Again, the secret is understanding. You must remember that children do not choose to be sick. You will need to be patient with them and help them to the best of your ability.

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