Supporting the mourning child

This handbook for parents and professionals who provide support to the child who has experienced a loss.

This handbook is intended for parents and professionals who provide support to the child who has experienced a loss. It is well-known nowadays that children experience a loss in a way which is different from that of adults. Children are more dependent on their immediate environment, especially on adult care givers, which causes that the loss is often connected with intensive feelings of insecurity and helplessness.

Also, younger children do not have sufficiently developed cognitive capacities which would help them understand what has happened. These are the reasons why adults are very important to the mourning child, since they can provide the feeling of protection and security and can explain what is happening around the mourning child in a child-friendly manner.

The first part of the handbook presents common reactions of varying age children to a loss. For adults, the child’s loss and mourning are especially difficult experience, we are trying to protect the child, we can hardly bear the child’s pain, we do not know how to help the child, we want to relieve its pain. Very often adults, too, feel helpless in contact with the mourning child. It is particularly difficult and demanding to be there for the child and provide what s/he needs if the adult who takes care of the child has also experienced the loss.

The second part is about the process of mourning. Mourning is a normal reaction to a loss of somebody (or something) close to us, important and loved. At the same time it is a process which has several, generally, universal phases, and its main aim is for the mourning person to remain in touch with memories and remembrance of the deceased (which is the reason why mourning people often withdraw) as long as it is necessary and to gradually adjust to living without the deceased and to the fact that life is never going to be the same again. Phases of mourning and characteristic expected reactions of children are presented.

Finally, a large part of the book is dedicated to providing support to the child within the family and at school/kindergarten. Special attention has been given to the communication with the child and efficient versus inefficient ways of communication and support.

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