When children or teens experience the death of someone they are close to—whether it be a parent, sibling, friend, or mentor—they can undergo intense feelings of grief, anger, and loneliness. Lack of maturity and life experience can make children feel powerless in the face of sorrow.
The trauma of loss can be extremely difficult for children to withstand, but when the death of a loved one is caused by the negligence of someone else, feelings of anguish can be overwhelming. Of course, a wrongful death is painful for everyone in the family, but adults need to help children and teens deal with mourning and grief.
Healing comes with understanding, communication, and time. Below are some ideas on how you can help your children cope with the wrongful death of a loved one.
Deal With Anger Appropriately
After the wrongful death of a loved one, you and others in your family may feel immense anger and bitterness. After all, if not for someone else’s negligence or mistake, your loved one would still be with you.
It is natural to experience anger. In fact, it is one of the steps of a healthy grieving process. These feelings are augmented in the case of wrongful death, and your child may feel overwhelmed by his or her feelings of rage and hatred.
Help your children understand that these feelings are natural, but that they should not be embraced or nurtured. Hate and intense anger need to run their course, but nursing feelings of animosity can prevent healing.
Your children may benefit from speaking with a therapist who can help them deal with overwhelming anger. At the very least, allow your children to speak with you openly about how they are feeling. Express extra affection and patience during this difficult period; when they feel secure, your children can grieve and heal. Help your children take their time and move forward without holding a grudge.
Anger will not heal the wounds caused by grief, but justice can help with healing. Speak with a personal injury attorney, who can aid you and your family in pursuing justice and preventing other fatal accidents from occurring.
Your children may feel, irrational as it is, that getting “revenge” will somehow change the outcome and bring your loved one back. Help your children understand that nothing can change what happened, but that pursuing justice can help protect other families from similar heartbreak.
As you pursue justice, communicate openly with your children. Help them understand why you are taking the steps you are, and ask them for their opinions and feelings. Feeling involved in the justice process can help a child deal with grief. However, avoid giving your children feelings of responsibility, which can give them unnecessary stress.
Dissolve Grief Myths
Unbeknownst to you, your children may be told various myths about grieving that cause them extra anxiety or stress. Predominant myths include:
- “If you ignore the pain, it will go away.”
- “You need to be strong for other people in your family.”
- “If you don’t cry, it means you don’t care.”
- “If you still feel sad after (a certain amount of time), something is wrong with you.”
Teach your children that everyone grieves differently, and that what they feel is perfectly normal and acceptable. You can help your children deal with grief in their own ways as you listen patiently, avoid placing arbitrary expectations on them, and share how you feel.
Your children may need to see that you are grieving. Be honest about what you feel, and try to share their grief as well. Many children feel isolated and lonely after the death of a loved one, and you can help your kids by being there for them no matter what.
Maintain Your Normal Schedule
During an enormous change like the death of a loved one, children may be in special need of security and normalcy. As much as possible, try to continue living life as you did before the passing of your loved one.
Your child may exhibit some strange behavior while dealing with his or her grieving process; try to be understanding and patient while being consistent in your discipline. Your children need to know what to expect from you at all times, and if you become unpredictable in your parenting, their feelings of confusion will only increase their emotional struggle.
It is also important to maintain a consistent schedule. You’ll need to make some decisions based on your children’s needs during the grieving process. For example, some children need to sleep a little more after the death of a loved one, and others may lose interest in some of their normal activities. In general, try to follow the schedule that you kept before the death. Consistency will help your child feel secure.
As you communicate with your children and help them navigate the difficult grieving process, you can grow closer as a family and show your children how much you love, respect, and care for them. The wrongful death of a loved one can be devastating, but as you help your children grieve, your family can find healing and peace.