A Child's Perception Of Death And Grief

2665 words - 11 pages

Death and dying is a natural and unavoidable process that all living creatures will experience at some point in life, whether it is one’s own person death or the death of a close friend or family member. Along with the experience of death comes the process of grieving which is the dealing and coping with the loss of the loved one. Any living thing can grieve and relate to a loss, even children (Shortle, Young, & Williams, 1993). “Childhood grief and mourning of family and friends may have immediate and long-lasting consequences including depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, behavioral disturbances, and school underachievement” (Kaufman & Kaufman, 2006, p. 61). American children today ...view middle of the document...

Death is going to happen to all living creature regardless of anything else. Death is a natural process and it out of the control of humanity. The final and fourth factor, causality, is where casual relationships are often misunderstood because children do not realize the depth of things caused by natural factors such as death (Shortle et al., 1993). For example, the death of a pet, could lead the child feeling guilty and remorseful when they actually had nothing to do with the cause of death (Kaufman & Kaufman, 2006).
It is believed that children do not experience grief until one has been through adolescents and can distinguish thoughts and feeling from emotions. According to Glass (1991), a child can grasp the notion of death during early childhood; and can begin to grief as early as six months (Willis, 2002). Willis (2002) believes from a moderate perspective that children begin to understand death and grieve approximately at three to four years old. Many times, small children are affected by loss and their grief is often underestimated. Children between the ages of three to five years old fall into stage one. During stage one; children view death as a going away from one place to another. It is believed that the deceased person has just relocated and is living in a new location. Stage two consists of children between the ages of five to nine years of old. In this phase, death can be fixed. It is thought that if one dies, that the person can come back to life just as one was before. Children often watch television and view superheroes, cartoons, and it these characters are often portrayed to cheat death, take falls, and come back to life. Death during this phase is also compared to one sleeping. Every night one falls asleep and wakes up to continue normal routine. Stage three, children from the ages of nine to ten years old, begin to better understand death and realize that death is eternal, predictable, and affects all living creatures. These stages are all apart of the process of children understanding death.
Although children may not completely understand death, they still respond to others emotions around them. It is important that children are able to participate in the process of rituals and ceremonies. They may even engage in crying at the ceremonies (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2007). “Today’s children live in a paradoxical relationship with death” (Shortle et al., 1993, 738). Leaving them full of confusion and misunderstanding; thinking that death is temporary. It is very important for parents and guardians to be honest with children about death. Being honest with them, helps alter their perception of what death really consists of. Some parents often think that they can simplify death by telling them that their loved one has gone to be with God in heaven. By trying to simplify the situation in this manner, the child may begin to blame God or others, causing other religious based issues later on in life (Willis, 2002). When...

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