By David Coy
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sorrow makes us all children again.” It seems that we who are adults fail to see that we can also feel and express some of the same grief experiences as children do. Sometimes, the only difference is our level of understanding of loss. We recall that infants are incapable of completely understanding or adequately expressing the experience of loss. They receive messages by sensing the emotional vibe from their parents’ sorrow and mimicking their response. Children from approximately three-five years of age generally believe that death does not happen. It is just sleep. They usually think very concretely. The six-10 age group have grown to understand death and its finality more. They may be curious and ask questions. This is when they need honest answers to their questions so that they can understand. Above this last age group, they continue to learn and expand their understanding about loss. We who are supposed to be adults need to be open, transparent, warm and honest in our response to loss so that our children may receive that message and use the information to come to figure out what is going on in their own lives.
Children can respond with emotion expressions or isolate themselves and express and share nothing just like adults do. It is believed that children may express their sorrow by protest because they can not believe the loss happened. They also might experience pain, depression, and disorganized behavior as they begin to believe in the eternality of death. Then, there is hope. The child is learning to build a life anew without the deceased. Life is a journey, and our grief experience is also. Children take their own journey. We should walk with together.
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