The death of a parent is a devastating loss, and the resulting separation can have long-reaching effects on the children left behind. Feelings of anger, loss and abandonment are expected in divorce situations, but they often occur in the case of death as well. Although it is not usually the parent’s choice to leave, he or she is still gone, and the child still suffers. How can you help your child deal with the death of her parent?
No One Right Way
Grief is painful, and you want to protect your children from it at all times, but unfortunately, this is not possible. Loss is a part of life, and though you may wish it would come later rather than sooner, you often have no control over it. The first thing to remember is that everyone grieves differently. Some cry frequently, some show no emotion at all. Some seem OK for a while, then break down later. There is no right way to grieve. However, if your child shows no emotion for a long period of time after the death, it may be time to seek professional help. Bottling up feelings is usually a recipe for disaster.
Fear and Guilt
Most people expect to feel sadness after any death, but especially so after the death of a parent. The person who has created you, taken care of you and been with you almost every day of your entire life is going to be missed. Your child might be fearful, wondering who will do the things the parent used to do, and if there will be enough money. These questions can lead to feelings of guilt, but they are valid questions, and your teen needs to be reassured that such thoughts are completely normal and that you will always seek to provide answers for her.
Anger and Confusion
Another common feeling among children left behind by parents who die is anger, and this is particularly true in the case of suicide. The child feels as if she has been abandoned, or was not good enough to be worthy of her parent wanting to live. In the case in which addiction, a careless accident or dangerous behavior leads to death, it is not uncommon for family members to feel angry. If your teen had a tumultuous relationship with the parent who died, the death can evoke feelings of both anger and guilt. It is difficult enough to deal with the reality of a parent being gone forever, but when you have to deal with the feelings of guilt and anger as well, the resulting pain can be unbearable.
Havenwood Academy treats teens who have been overwhelmed by the death of a parent. Their therapists work with girls to work out the deeper issues surrounding the death of her parent so that she can move past the grief and emerge strong and ready to face the world.