They explained that children tend to pick up on a lot of things happening but may not have the capacity to express their grief.
There's no linear recovery from loss. Be it adults or kids, everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time. There's no telling how one reacts to loss and how one copes with it. Coming to terms with the death of a loved one can take a heavy toll especially on kids. One funeral director took to Twitter to shed light on how children process grief and explained ways in which parents and caretakers can help them process it. The Twitter thread has gone viral with more than 44,000 likes and has been shared close to 7,000 times.
"I’ve directed 4 funerals in 2 days and I was reminded how children process and display, express grief in different ways than adults," they wrote, before explaining how it can also help adults. They explained that as part of their course in mortuary sciences (or psychology), they were taught that most people in suburban communities were introduced to death around the age of 8 on average through the loss of a grandparent or pet. "I keep that info in mind when I’m at work," they wrote. "It’s important to remember that if you’re making a service a FAMILY event: be patient with infants, toddlers and children who are attending the service."
Remember children might not be able or ready to verbally express their feelings so you may see them act out their feelings and emotions.— bigeyekwse (@bigeyekwse) February 12, 2022
Even older children (6,7,8+) may resort to behaving like toddlers or younger to get the attention they cannot ask for.
They pointed out that it's important to help kids express their grief. "Remember children might not be able or ready to verbally express their feelings so you may see them act out their feelings and emotions. Even older children (6,7,8+) may resort to behaving like toddlers or younger to get the attention they cannot ask for," they explained. The director also added that children are not prepared to see a lifeless body of a loved one without warning. "If it’s an open casket and you haven’t talked about death, dying and corpses, then take a few minutes to prepare the children in your care. If you are at a loss and you’re not sure what to say or do then ask your funeral director and funeral home staff."
The director then explained the time they came across a girl who was struggling. "I gave her some cards and crayons so that she could make a card for her great-uncle to have with him in his casket. It offered mom an opportunity to get herself together and the little girl was able to draw out her feelings," they wrote. "Some funeral homes have children’s books that address exactly what you’re struggling to talk to your kiddo about, from many different cultures and backgrounds. Bring snacks. Sit down with your children JUST before the service begins and ask to sit in the back for a quick exit."
Stepping outside to watch the sunlight flicker through branches, listen to the wind blow, birds chirp, just to ALLOW THEM TO USE THEIR SENSES will help ground you both/all.— bigeyekwse (@bigeyekwse) February 12, 2022
Remind them it’s ok to cry. It’s ok to hug and get snuggles (from y’all). It’s ok to ask for water.
They also explained that most funeral homes have private rooms people can use to grieve and in this case, to help kids process the event. "Children are just little sponges they’ll pick up on everything! Including the stress, pain, angrer, grief and anxiety in the caregivers who are around them," they wrote. "Remind them it’s ok to cry. It’s ok to hug and get snuggles (from y’all). It’s ok to ask for water." The director also said it was important to help kids not deny their own emotions. "Remember to sleep when you’re tired, or at least, rest your eyes. It’s ok to feel guilt. It’s ok to feel hungry. It’s ok to feel confused. It’s ok to feel angry. It’s ok to feel anxious. It’s 'normal' to feel as though you’ve lost something because you have," they concluded.
I told the kids if they decided they wanted to leave, just walk to the back and I had someone watching for them who would meet them there and sit with them in another room.— LeighA (@_LASharp) February 13, 2022
I didn’t ask if they wanted to see the open casket beforehand but in hindsight wish I had given the option.