The dictionary meaning of the word Bereavement is ‘a period of mourning after a loss, especially after the death of a loved one’. The key in point here is in the ‘period of mourning’. In this period allow children to express a full range of feelings. Anger, guilt, despair and protest. These are all natural reactions to the death of someone loved.
Children of all ages can feel grief and loss. As a rule, any child old enough to love is old enough to mourn. It is true that infants and toddlers are not developmentally mature enough to fully understand the concept of death. But it can also be said that children of all ages do not truly understand the inevitability and permanence of death until adolescence.
Kids of all ages learn by imitation. If they see you grieving in healthy ways, they will learn to do the same. Share your feelings, instead of hiding them when the children are around. Cry, be angry, show emotion whilst letting them know that these painful feelings are not directed at them and are not their fault.
Don’t feel guilty if you are so overwhelmed by your own grief that you can’t make yourself emotionally available to the children. It is OK to need some alone time to mourn. It may be said that the more fully you allow yourself to work through your own mourning, the sooner you will be available to help the child. In the meantime, make sure other caring adults are around to nurture the bereaved children.
Always ask for help if the feelings of grief and loss become to heavy a load to carry. Grief can be all consuming and sometimes the best bet is to seek the help of a professional.