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When a parent dies

By admin
04 June 2014

Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard on anyone, no matter how old you are. Even worse is the task of having to tell a child that their parent has died. You’d struggle with where to begin and how to comfort the child. But you have to be honest with them and encourage questions. This can be hard as you may not have all the answers, but it’s important to create an atmosphere of comfort and send the message that it’s okay for the child to feel upset about the death. A child’s capacity to understand the death, and your approach to the discussion, will vary depending on the child’s age.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard on anyone, no matter how

old you are. Even worse is the task of having to tell a child that their parent has died.

You’d struggle with where to begin and how to comfort the child. But you have to be honest with them and encourage questions.

This can be hard as you may not have all the answers, but it’s important to create an atmosphere of

comfort and send the message that it’s okay for the child to feel upset

about the death. A child’s capacity to understand the death, and your approach to the

discussion, will vary depending on the child’s age.

The death of a parent can transform a child’s life. It doesn’t matter if the parent was loved or resented, or whether their relationship was a close or distant one. It also doesn’t

even matter how old the child and parent are at the time of death.

¦Grief: Some children lose hope after the death of a parent. Grief is unique and each person handles it very differently. The parent-child bond is the most fundamental of all human ties. Understandably, when a mother or father dies, the child may feel a multitude of strong

emotions, including these:

¦Sadness: This deep feeling of loss can be overwhelming. Allow the child to feel the pain and open up about how they feel. Don’t be tempted to tell young boys phrases like, “indoda ayikhali” (a man never cries). Let them release their pain. It is unhealthy to tell them to bottle up their feelings.

¦Anger: The child may feel angry because a loving relationship in their life has ended prematurely. Often, the anger is legitimate and you must help the child come to terms with it. The child may feel that the parent left them too soon. They may agonise over who will take them to soccer practice and watch them play, or ride a bicycle with them.Children need reassurance

about what the next plan is. Another form of anger is that of a child who had just reconciled with a

parent and while they were getting to know each other, the parent dies.

¦Guilt: The child may wish they had said or unsaid certain things to the parent before they died.

They may even wish they had spent more time with the parent. Depending on the nature of the

death, at times a child may even feel like they contributed to the death. Working through these feelings is essential for healing. If the child is finding it hard to deal with their parent’s death, seek professional help. Organisations like the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) can assist. Contact them on tel. 011 262 6396.