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Children and the Loss of a Loved One

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The movie, 'The Fault in Our Stars." is a story about how family members and friends deal with the loss of a loved one.  Children react differently from adults when coping with the death of someone close to them.  How they act ultimately depends on their age.  
When a parent dies, a child may act younger than they are, sometimes displaying infantile behavior.  Preschoolers have a harder time comprehending the loss, whereas, kids ages five to nine have an understanding of death but are stunned that it has happened to them.  In contrast, teenagers react based on their personality and relationship with the individual who's passed.  
As a consequence, there are many ways to grieve the loss of a loved one.  Families who have children need to understand that their child's emotions can be like a roller coaster, normal and playful, which can then switch to crying and anger towards the surviving family members. Children can also feel alone in their loss.  Friends may not know how to help or relate to them.  
Gilly, a ten-year old, lost her older sister to a sudden illness.  "When I saw her in the hospital, I was scared , wondering what my life would be like after this.  I was sad, lonely and scared.  I miss my sister a lot but I can't change that she is gone."  
Fortunately, there are resources available to help surviving family members and friends deal with a loss.  Referrals from your primary care provider are a good place to start for support groups and therapy.
Facts for Families:
Children and Grief: What They Know, How They Feel, How to Help

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Pam graduated in 1993 from Holy Names College in Oakland Ca. with a BSN degree and received her Masters Degree in Pediatric Primary Care from Indiana University in 1997. Previous and current pediatric experience includes working in community health centers as well as being a school nurse in both a suburban and inner city school corporation and teaching graduate level nursing courses. Her special medical interests include working with children with cerebral palsy. In her free time she enjoys knitting, reading and swimming. She is married and has two children.
Baby girl with pony tail in white