Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a parent. Parents are the primary support system of a child. Hence, the death of a parent can be a traumatic experience for a child. Hence, it’s important to keep the emotional well-being of a child in mind while breaking this tragic news to them. Dr Sushma Mehrotra, Ph.D consulting clinical psychologist tells you how to go about this.
Don’t hide or lie about the death of a parent
Sometimes adults are not sure about how to break the news about the passing away of a parent to a child. So, they end up lying or hiding the news from the child. This does not give closure to the relationship the child shared with the parent. The child will keep waiting for the parent, and this can be traumatising. Hence, it’s important to handle this situation with a lot of sensitivity and care.
How to help a child cope with the loss
Keeping in mind the emotional safety of the child, the immediate family should share information about the death of a parent. This can be done using storytelling. It’s important for the child to understand the concept of death. However, that does not mean that you share each and every detail. The idea is to communicate the loss of a parent but not to take away the child’s emotional security.
Let the child be a part of the grieving process
The child needs to be a part of the family’s grieving process and should be allowed to particpate in the final rites. This helps the child process what has happened. The child may also need counselling and support to accept the loss of the parent.
How therapy can help
Generally a mental health expert is likely to use a form of therapy for PTSD cases in children. Storytelling and play is used to explain what has happened and what should happen. The expert goes over what the daily routine of the child will now look like. The child is given a chance to picture life with their guardians, and this helps them process the death faster.