Maybe... Maybe not! Everyone grieves in their own way and it is most unfair to decide how another should or will grieve.
While psychologists do feel that many people who have had a long time to prepare for a loss may have an easier psychological adjustment than those dealing with a sudden loss. 

But we are told also that people who have been through a long illness with a loved one are frequently physically and emotionally drained. They may even be more susceptible to illness themselves. Having been through weeks or months of stress they may have eaten and slept poorly. They may feel guilty for feeling relief from their heavy burden. Those desirous of helping the grieving in these circumstances should be willing to assist with feelings. They also could help the bereaved to reorganize their life without the deceased, to get needed rest and, when necessary, to become active again.

However, it is important not to push the bereaved to "get back to normal" too quickly.  The death of someone we love can change our lives drastically. There are often major decisions to be made following a death. The house may be too large, we may have a sudden loss of income, we may have to raise the children alone. Adjustment to these changes may force us to make major decisions at a time when we are already distressed emotionally and least able to make good decisions. We may feel rushed to make decisions simply to avoid memories. 

Good decision making requires that you take time, have all the facts before you and be rational not emotional. Anyone who is faced with major decisions because of a death in the family should take time, get rest and get good information and wait until your emotions have subsided.

Be sure to ask for help from qualified professionals before making any major decisions, especially while you are grieving. Your lawyer, accountant and therapist can all help you make good decisions, while you work towards "normal".

Children who have lost a parent may have a lot of questions about death. In addition they may feel insecure about life. They may wonder if death will strike again.

It is helpful to provide children with direct and honest answers. At the time of the funeral and visitation they should be allowed to participate in ceremonies if they wish. After the funeral children need to be given reassurance and love while the family adjusts to the loss.

It is not helpful to tell children that Daddy or Mommy went away or went to sleep. Such comments can be misinterpreted and the child might react by fearing sleep or being angry at the parent for leaving.

Often a child will ask something like, "Daddy, when will you get me a new Mommy?"

It is not unusual for a child to worry about a new mommy or daddy when his real concern is, "who will take care of me?" Security is vitally important to a child and the death of a parent shakes the core of that security. A child who loses a parent or other loved person needs lots of reassurance. They need to be told that they will receive love and care. A child may also need reassurance that others whom he counts on will not go away or die. There are, of course, other ways to reassure a child. 

Dependability, a reasonably stable routine, spending time together and support during feelings of loss are important. Children may not always communicate exactly what they mean but you will rarely fail them by giving them security and reassurance.

Some death and illness can leave us shattered and seeking meaning and purpose. The existential question of "why" which many ponder can become quite personal and be framed in personal terms as "why me".
We may never get a completely satisfactory answer to either the "why" of life or the universe or to the "why" of what happens in our own lives.
Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist imprisoned in Hitler's death camps. He survived and wrote a book entitled "Man's Search For Meaning". For those of us surviving losses of all kinds Dr Frankl's work is inspiring and not patronizing. I often recommend it as it helps those struggling with loss, illness and tragedy.

As in all other aspects of life, honesty is the best policy! Children can quickly see through adult uneasiness or deceit. Telling a child that the person died and giving a specific reason for the death is most honest and definitely the most helpful. Don't beat around the bush, they will know. If children raise further questions, these too should be answered honestly and patiently. 2 of the most common questions children ask are:

What happens when someone dies?

Children experience death in many ways. When a pet dies, or perhaps a relative dies it's important to answer the child's questions directly and honestly, and not to say that the person went away or went to sleep. An indirect answer may cause children to become angry at the deceased for having gone away, or angry at God, or they may even be afraid of sleep. Hiding death from children is not helpful. Direct and honest answers mean saying that the person or pet has died and will no longer be part of our lives. It's helpful to tell the child that death is natural and that when we die our bodies don't feel anything. 

You won't leave me, too, will you?

The death of a parent can be very upsetting to a child. Besides feeling sad and lonely, many children feel very insecure. The safe environment that the family unit provides has been destroyed and often children don't know what to expect next. Children need a lot of reassurance and love when a parent dies. They should be allowed to cry and to express their feelings, never berated or told to "suck it up". Children should be allowed to share in wakes, memorials and funerals for anyone who was an important part of their life, if they wish. While the gap created by death won't ever completely close, love and understanding will help bring a family closer together.

Death is not a common occurrence in the lives of most families. It is very important to reassure children that they will be cared for in spite of the fact that things will be different without the deceased. It is helpful to include children in all ceremonies and as much as possible in decisions that will affect them but only if they wish to participate. A child's loss is real and will not go away by being ignored.

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    As part of my doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, when information on grief, bereavement, death and dying was scarce, some colleagues and I began group work with the bereaved. Out of that work grew interviews with widowers, training with funeral workers, clergy, social workers, hospice and medical personnel. 

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    Copyright 2013, Dr. Donald Steele, Ph.D.
    NOTICE: All content within this blog is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The author is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site. The author is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health.