Losing a mother is a difficult thing for anyone to bear. As hard as it is for adults to deal with the unfortunate eventual death of their mom, it is even more challenging for children who often still depend so heavily upon this female parent. If you are tasked with helping a child deal with the death of his mother, there are things that you can do to help him make it through this period of grief and enable him to see the light at the end of the tunnel of loss through which he’s traveling.
Grieving vs. Mourning
While many people use the terms “grieving” and “mourning” synonymously, as MayoClinic.com reports, there is a difference between the two. Mourning is an outward demonstration of your upset over a loss, such as wearing black clothing immediately following the death of a loved one, whereas grieving is an internal process. Mourning traditionally goes on for several weeks or months after the death of a loved one, but grieving can continue considerably beyond, extending for potentially years after the death of a key parent.
Learning to Grieve
Grieving, like many things, is not something that a child is born knowing how to do. If you are helping a child move through the grieving process, he’ll need assistance in understanding how this grief process works. One of the easiest ways to help him grieve is to discuss his loss with him. All too often, people shy away from discussing the death of a mother, as they feel that this discussion will only further upset the already distraught child, reports the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies. However, without this discussion, the child may not understand how to deal with the emotions he is feeling and, as a result, may fail to properly grieve.
Whenever a child loses a mother, she must cope with new role development. The tasks that her mother once completed must now be undertaken by another adult. It can be challenging for children to see someone other than their mom take on these tasks, as it is an indication that their mother truly will not be returning. Because experiencing the role revision often proves so challenging, many children initially rebel against people who try to fill the role vacated by their mother.
Help for Grieving Kids
When a child loses his mother, he will likely grieve for an extended period of time. Regardless of how well-intentioned you may be, it might not be possible for you alone to fill this void. If you are helping a child grieve, don’t take on all the responsibility yourself. Instead, speak with the counselor at the child’s school — a professional counselor who deals with children or the child’s pediatrician — and ask the professional what she recommends you do to help the child overcome his struggles. By getting input from an assortment of people, you’re likely to increase your effectiveness in helping the child.
Children who lose a parent are at a greater risk for an assortment of mental challenges later in life, notes the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies. Children who lose a parent are more prone to experience anxiety and depression than others their same age. While nothing you can do will minimize the likelihood of the development of these disorders, you can be aware of the child’s increased risk and monitor him accordingly.