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QMy husband died last year. Our 11-year-old daughter

has started getting angry when people talk about him and upset when they ask how she’s doing. Is this normal?


It may surprise you to learn just how normal your daughter’s reaction is,

especially when asked how she’s getting on. If people weren’t generally so polite in response to the question ‘How are you doing?’ many would scream, ‘How do you think?! My Father died!’ I would guess that your daughter has

probably had her feelings rebuffed before. For example, if someone asked how she was and she responded honestly, she may have heard in reply something like ‘Don’t be upset – your Dad wouldn’t want that’, or similar. It doesn’t take many times of having your honest feelings slapped down, to learn to dislike questions about how you feel. I’d suggest contacting the school to see

if they can encourage staff to ask ‘What’s happening with you today?’ instead of ‘How are you?’ which can be viewed as interrogative. If your daughter chooses to answer with information about her feelings about her Dad, a good response could start with ‘I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you’. There’s something about the word ‘imagine’ which makes the statement softer and less intrusive. It tells the griever that you will not judge them for their answer. I suggest reading When Children Grieve by John W James – this should help you talk to her safely.

QMy partner and I split up A six months ago, and he is

still actively involved with our children, but our six-year-old son has recently started wetting the bed – could this be connected?

Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind. And while

your son may see their dad regularly, it’s safe to assume that familiar routines have dramatically changed over the last six  feelings following a change to or end of a familiar pattern of behaviour. So yes, this is normal following a relationship breakdown. In a crisis we often revert to old behaviours.

  

I’m guessing that your son stopped bed- wetting some time ago but since all the changes in his life he’s reverted to that old  son is not to get upset with him or scold or judge him in any way. He’s probably already embarrassed by what is happening, so he needs as much safety and support as he can get from you. Give him some time to adapt to the changes but if the bedwetting persists, speak to your GP.

QMy dad died last year and my son keeps asking if he

can catch a plane to heaven to see him – what should I tell him?


Young minds are very impressionable and take things they hear very literally.

Whether you see heaven as an actual place or think of it in a metaphorical sense, we can assure you that your little one thinks of it as a real place. The younger children are, the harder it is for them to understand metaphors and euphemisms. The classic example of a euphemism confusing children is when they are told that ‘Granddad has gone to sleep’.  to sleep in case they can’t wake up again! Most people allude to heaven being up

above. Small children take that very literally. This is tricky territory because whatever your

At some point all of us will

have to support our children through grief, loss or divorce. So how can we prepare for this difficult topic? Carole Batchelor explains...

religion, you probably hold your beliefs very strongly. So how do you communicate those beliefs to your children without confusing them? For the most part the answer lies in making sure one key phrase is included in your communications: in answer to the question ‘Where’s Granddad?’, the key response must be ‘Granddad has died’. This can be followed up with ‘Granddad went to heaven’, but it is critical that ‘Granddad died’  has gone to heaven,’ your child will hear that and want to go there and you may have a hard time explaining that we can’t go there because we aren’t dead. Remember children are very literal; you are liable to get a barrage of questions. Answer each one in turn honestly and with clear language, avoiding any confusing metaphors.

QA family at our school lost their Mum last month. My

daughter came home asking if I was going to die. Could the school have let parents know so that we could have been better prepared?


It is in the best interests of the bereaved family that staff, children and other

parents are aware of what is going on so that the best possible support can be provided. I would recommend that schools take the lead in this type of situation and suggest that a communication/support plan be given to the family for them to agree, rather than expect them to think about having to deal with this in the midst of their pain. This is a common situation that all schools

should prepare for in advance. If in doubt Grief Recovery (UK) offers training for schools called ‘Helping Children Deal with Loss’. Parents or teachers who wish to be When Children Grieve by John W James helpful.

About our expert...

       SUMMER 2015 57



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