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Help your child overcome grief

By Vision Reporter

Added 27th February 2012 12:21 PM

Eleven-year-old Alice Busingye was visited at school by both her parents. Her father, Johnson Busingye, an accountant in Kampala, bought a card and cake to celebrate her birthday.

Help your child overcome grief

Eleven-year-old Alice Busingye was visited at school by both her parents. Her father, Johnson Busingye, an accountant in Kampala, bought a card and cake to celebrate her birthday.

By Maureen Nakatudde

Eleven-year-old Alice Busingye was visited at school by both her parents. Her father, Johnson Busingye, an accountant in Kampala, bought a card and cake to celebrate her birthday.

The cake was cut and shared by all her classmates. That was one of the happiest days in Alice’s life. At about midday the next day, an aunt picked Alice from school only to be told that her had died in an accident.

Busingye’s world momentarily stood still. She could not imagine a life without her father. As she coped with her loss, she contemplated suicide several times. You can help children cope with death by:

Explain to them
The concept of death is hard for children to grasp.

As an adult, it is your role to explain to the child what has happened. Steven Langa, a counsellor with Family Life Network, says you should reveal what death means according to the child’s level of understanding.

Whatever you do, avoid telling the child a lie, for example that their parent(s) have gone on a long journey because it will rob them of the opportunity to grieve.

Let them grieve
At this point, some children might respond by crying a lot, another may question why their parent could not be saved from death. Langa says: “All this is normal and as time goes by it ceases. The most important thing is not to suppresses their way of dealing with the loss, but help them cope with it.”

Talk about it
Other than remaining silent, it is always good to reminiscence about those good memories as much as possible. When you reveal what is in your heart, it lessens the effect the death will have on the child. As you share; your pain and grief will bbone by others and the load will be lighter on the child.

Be available
Do not leave them alone or without any form of support system. If the person who died meant the world to them, that child may wish they were dead too.

That is when they can contemplate suicide. Others may indulge in permissive behaviour like alcohol and drug abuse as well as pre-marital sex.

Try as much as possible to console them and monitor their every moment without letting them feel like you are spying on them.

Hold them
This will help them know that they are not alone and can depend on you for comfort.
Betty Kambedha, a parent and teacher at Joy Primary School, Makerere, says a hug shows a child that “no matter what has happened, there is someone who understands.” They will feel secure and this will help them deal with the loss healthily.

Empathise with them
There are some homes where children’s feelings are not respected. A clueless person will make a careless statement like “don’t worry, it’s going to be ok.” Langa says: “It is always good to tell the child that you care.”

One way you can do it is by saying “I’m really sorry about the death of your friend and I hope you can overcome it.” But don’t tell them not to worry or not to mind because it is unrealistic and this does not help them. Support them emotionally.

Sometimes supporting a child who has lost a loved one may entail helping them with little things. You can remind them to eat food, change their clothes or ask whenever they need help. This display of affection helps them deal with the pain.

Prayer
Telling God (or any other higher power you believe in) how you feel is one way to cope with grief. For example: “Lord, I am really angry at you for taking my friend, mother...” When you do not deny your feelings, it will help you feel better and also know that He will work out everything for good.

Love will find a way

Love causes even the hardest of hearts to melt. A grieving child needs to know that they are still loved; that even though their parent is gone, they can count on the next person for support.

Kambedha gives an example where a P1 Sudanese boy screamed to his fellow pupils: “I will kill you!” When the teacher delved into the matter, they discovered that the boy’s parents had been shot right before his eyes.

Since then, the teachers and pupils started showing the boy more love.
Kambedha reveals that with time, the boy’s tantrums and threats reduced and he settled into a normal child.

Memory
There are some homes where family members are not permitted to talk about the dead person as it is believed to cause more pain.

On the contrary, it is advisable to keep the memory of the dead person alive in whatever way possible. Whether it is negative or positive, it will help the child deal with the loss. Memorial services or photo albums are good ways of doing this.

This will help the child know that their departed loved one is still important.

Help your child overcome grief

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