University of São Paulo: Children deal with grief differently than adults


Childhood: phase of dreams, games, fantasies and lack of concern for real life. But, suddenly, death happens and then it is necessary to know how to deal with it and pass on this information to the children. According to Érika Arantes de Oliveira Cardoso, a psychologist at the Department of Psychology, also a master and doctor in Psychology, coordinator of Lute, Group of Studies on Mourning and Terminalities of the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of USP in Ribeirão Preto, “the curiosity of children helps deal with loss and we shouldn’t force her to understand something she’s not yet ready to understand.”

A tip given by the psychologist to talk about death with children is to use stories created for this purpose. “As in any children’s learning process, they gradually understand the process of dying, and it is common to think that death is reversible, as in fairy tales, where it is related to a deep sleep, where the person can be woken up. As they grow up, they begin to understand death as an irreversible and also universal event. This means that death happens to everyone and there is no going back after you die”, says the expert.

emotional bond
There are children who deal better with loss and the void left by death, but there are those who, because they have a greater emotional bond with who or what died, because it can often be a pet, adapting to the new reality can be well harder. When talking about death, it is important to know how much she knows about this process, respect cognitive and emotional limits and make yourself available to answer questions she may have.

It is not uncommon for minors to question what happens after death and, in some situations, professional help is needed. “Depending on the age, the child may question what happens after death, and what begins as a curiosity can take on dimensions of great anguish. It is important to reinforce that grief is a natural process, which does not necessarily need psychological interventions, but in the case of acute suffering or in the case of children who seek an understanding that goes beyond the cognitive and emotional capacities they present at the moment, it is necessary psychotherapeutic support”, highlights Érika.

Specific service
The bereaved child will have different needs and resources than adults, so specific care for them is essential. She won’t necessarily have an easier time dealing with death, we can think that they deal with it differently than adults. The family members must be available for questions and freely ask themselves, insisting on the questions without feeling that it is being inappropriate or inconvenient. Often these minors suffer even before the loss of the person. They want answers that adults are often not prepared to give. With that, they are lonely in pain. The child has the ability to understand issues of death and dying, but they need help to do so, they do not learn alone. They need a safe space and reliable people to accompany them.

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