HIV POSITIVE  Caretakers
Coping With A Loss

Helping Children Cope with Death

Children's concerns are sometimes similar, sometimes different from those of adults. However, because the adults around them are grieving too, children's needs and concerns may go unaddressed. Some responses that children might have to death include the following:

  • Separation anxiety -- will they lose other loved ones? Will someone take care of them?

  • Magical thinking -- are they responsible for the illness or death because of something they did or did not do, felt or did not feel?

  • Meaning of death -- will the dead person return. (Comparisons of death to sleep can lead to fears about sleeping.)

  • Physical problems - such as bed wetting or nightmares.

  • Behavioral problems -- decline in school performance, sullenness, refusal to be left alone.

A child whose loved one has died needs honest, open, reassuring answers, and a chance to pose questions in a secure environment. Parents who are afraid to share their pain or cry with children may need help from others in assisting children to express themselves. It is important to include children in the mourning process.

Their participation in commemorative rituals -- funerals or other memorial ceremonies -- can give them a place to mourn. In addition, it can be a comfort to be with children and learn from their different perspective on the grief process.

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