The Death of a Loved One

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I thought it would be important for me to share a personal matter that happens to us all.

Both my grandmothers died within the space of two weeks from each other, just a few weeks ago. As sad and as difficult as it was, it was also important to explain to my 5 year old what had happened and walk her, myself and my parents through the process of grieving.

Irrespective of cultural or religious beliefs, the death of a loved one is always painful to deal with. According to Lewis (1998:6), “Grief can be described as a deep sorrow or distress. It can vary in duration and intensity”.

Children grieve differently from adults; they grieve according to their developmental stage and their understanding of death and loss. Older children tend to display more anxiety, depression and somatic symptoms. Younger children tend to display more sadness, anger, crying spells, feelings of rejection and guilt, separation anxiety and also somatic complaints. Children will typically ask the same question over and over, not because they require more factual information or because they do not understand the information presented to them, but for reassurance.

Gilliland and James (1993) point out that research has shown that children generally make healthier adjustments if they are told the truth about what exactly happened. The child can sense if he is not told the truth or that information is being held from him. That makes him distrust adults and makes him feel even more insecure.

The following is what can be done to help the process:

  • Talk about good happy memories of that special person.
  • Make a memory box, with special photos or memorabilia of the person.
  • Answer any questions being asked.
  • Visit the grave.
  • Create a memorial site/space in your home of that special person.
  • Write a letter or draw a picture to the loved one that died – a sign of your love.
  • When writing a letter to your deceased loved one, you can mention what you would have liked to have told him/ her if they were alive.
  • Have a photo of the person in your room or where it can be seen.
  • Create a scrapbook of the special person that died.
  • When you really miss that special person, have an item close at hand that can be touched, smelt and seen to remind you of him/her.
  • Get lots of hugs, cry and talk to someone you feel close to.
  • Last but not least, it takes time to feel better after someone you love has died. Give your heart time to heal.

This article is in memory of my Avó Julia and Avó Lourdes, because I know that they would love to still be remembered.

*Avó is portuguese for Grandmother