How do I help my brother grieve

How do I help my child in a grief situation?

Children deal with the loss of a loved one differently than adults. How parents stand by a grieving child and can help him.

Text: Claudia F├╝ssler
Images: Harry + Lady / Plainpicture and iStock

It's a banality, and yet it has to be said again and again: dying is normal. It is part of life like illness and childbirth, like exuberant happiness and deep despair, like light summer days and difficult November evenings. People die because they are old or sick, because they have an accident or because they no longer want to live.

When someone dies, it is sad and often very painful. But that's not the problem. Rather, the problem is how we deal with it: Mourning a deceased person is no longer socially acceptable. This emotion is more negative than ever before. It mustn't be, and if it does, then please really only briefly. Our performance society demands happy faces and capable people. We wear big sunglasses on the day of the funeral and say to ourselves: pull together.

Is grief forbidden these days?

But by stigmatizing one of the most important emotions we are capable of, we are laying the foundation for numerous mental and physical illnesses: sleep disorders, depression, addictive behavior. Mourning cannot be forbidden, it seeks its way. The price that society pays for this is high: "If today's adults had had more space as children to live their grief, we would today have significantly less to do with difficult grief processes and their consequences", says the Bernese mourning and dying companion Christine Leicht.

We learn how to deal with grief and death in a healthy way as a child. Or better: we learned it. People died at home right up until the age of industrialization. No child was sent outside so that it would not see the dying person. The deceased was laid out for days, friends, neighbors and family came to say goodbye, they brought food and remembered together.

"Birth, illness and death were completely natural processes in which the entire family and relatives took part," says Christine Leicht. "Only when the extended families fell apart, the grandparents lived elsewhere, aunts and uncles worked far away and no one had any more time, was all of this outsourced."

Through age-appropriate understanding, a child can express his feelings about the experience of loss.

Today the sick come to the hospital, the elderly to the nursing home and the dying to the palliative care unit. Because children no longer experience death as part of life, they need all the more support in understanding it. Only through an age-appropriate understanding and understanding can a child express his feelings about this experience of loss.

Above all, says Christine Leicht, they also need permission for these feelings. If a parent, brother or sister dies, it is difficult for the parents or the surviving parent to support their child sufficiently in his or her individual grief process in addition to their own grief and the continuation of everyday life.