Experiencing a loss is a difficult time for anyone.
Grief, not to be confused with mourning, is how people process their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
One of the myths about grief is that it always occurs in stages. There are the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
However, not everyone goes through these emotions in this order — or even experiences all of these emotions. It is normal to move around between the stages as well.
As personality type affects how people handle grief, different age groups cope differently as well. Children and adults have different methods for dealing with grief, and it also depends on the individual.
Overall, children need to know the truth when it comes to death. Depending on their age, determine how to talk to them about it in a way that they will understand.
Children may feel misunderstood or alone when dealing with loss. The changes and absence of the deceased can be confusing to them. Some may want to talk about it while others will not.
Some ways children may react to death are:
- Loss of appetite and concentration
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Reverting to outgrown behaviors
- Asking excessive questions about the deceased
- Inventing games about dying
- Drop in school performance
Some of these reactions are specific to certain age ranges as well.
Children ages two to four feel sad but confused. They do not realize the permanence of death yet. If their loved one died of an illness, they may fear germs and getting sick, or they could fear traveling in cars if the deceased died in a car accident.
By ages nine to 12, children realize that everyone is going to die someday. They may feel pressure to be strong when someone dies and not openly share their grief.
Teenagers might be afraid of death, but do not want to discuss their fears. They want to regain a feeling of self-control, so they may take risks because they don’t think anything bad will happen to them.
Parents can help their children by grieving with them, listening, offering love and reassurance, helping memorialize the deceased, encouraging questions, and seeking professional help if needed.
Adults react similarly to children in the way that they need to be open with their grief and share their thoughts and feelings.
Grief is different for adults because they understand how death works and are aware of their loss. They have a fully developed brain and memories with the deceased.
As mentioned for children, people can help adults grieve by listening to them if they want to talk, providing love and support, and helping memorialize the deceased.
It can be difficult for someone who suffers from depression to handle grief, but there are ways to manage grief and depression.
Grief can come in many forms, such as masked grief (avoidance), or delayed grief. If it lasts for a long time, consider seeking professional help coping with the loss.
What are some healthy ways children and adults can cope with the loss of a loved one? Share them with us in the comments!