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How to help your child cope with the death of a grandparent

Dealing with loss can be challenging, especially if your child had a close relationship with their grandparent.

The passing of a grandparent is often a child’s first encounter with mortality. When a grandparent dies, children may react in a variety of ways. Some of their responses will be instantaneous, while others may be delayed.

While it’s important for adults to develop healthy coping methods in dealing with the grief and loss of their own parent, it’s equally important to understand that your children have also lost a valuable family member and will also need help navigating the stages of grief.

Communicate with your child about death

After the death of a grandparent, your child may have many questions. Your responses to questions will differ based on your child’s age and degree of maturity. Be straightforward and honest, but concise, especially if your children is under the age of seven.

Occasionally, children will ask the same questions repeatedly. When this occurs, respond with patience and consistency. Remember that you are not required to supply all of the answers, so answer those you feel most comfortable discussing.

Do not use euphemisms for death such as “rest” or “sleep” around children. These remarks may lead a child to believe that their grandparent would someday return or awaken. Help your child comprehend that death is final and irreversible.

Children coping with the loss of a loved one frequently question if they may lose other people they care about. When a child loses a grandparent, they may anticipate losing the remaining grandparents as well. A straightforward statement such as “I expect Grandpa to remain here for a long time” is the greatest response in this circumstance.

If a grandparent passed away from a disease, your child may be fearful of illness in general. They may wonder if they, too, will get sick. Therefore, it’s important to avoid connecting death with illness. Remind your child that you will do everything in your power to ensure their health and wellbeing.

Also, be cautious when stating that someone died due to old age. Your child may develop a fear of losing other elderly individuals. Present your child with a positive image of ageing whenever feasible. Often, especially with younger children, a simple remark that a person’s body stopped working and could not be repaired suffices to explain why someone passed away.

Comfort your child

Your child will require comfort following the loss of a grandparent. Reassure your child that the loss of their grandparent is not their fault, as guilt frequently accompanies death-related emotions. Occasionally, children regard death as a form of punishment. Ensure that your child understands that death is not a consequence but a natural part of life.

Help your child cope with the funeral and other services

Funerals can be overwhelming for small children. Attending a wake or visitation can sometimes serve as an acceptable substitute for attending a funeral.

If your child is attending a service, prepare them by explaining what will occur. If your child is attending a visitation or service with an open casket, give them the option of viewing the body. If so, make arrangements for it to be with a calm adult. Prepare your child for the body’s appearance by explaining that since the body is no longer functioning, it will appear different. It can be helpful to allow a child to place a picture or message in the casket.

If you anticipate being preoccupied or if you have many responsibilities at the funeral, make careful to choose another responsible adult to remain with your child throughout and after the service. It is essential that your child have access to an adult who can answer questions or simply hold their hand.

The grief process following the death of a grandparent

Allow your child to grieve, but recognise that for some youngsters, the onset of genuine grieving may be delayed. Children’s reactions to and reactions to death change over time. Children may experience physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches, as well as difficulties concentrating in school. These behavioural changes will likely disappear after a few weeks. If not, they may need to consult with a counsellor to help them heal.

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