Helping Children Cope with Death

with his/her own feelings. Word of caution: Children ages 10 through 12 can also take on the burden of responsibility if a caregiver has died. They may feel responsible for younger siblings. A boy or girl may try to take the role of the father or mother they have lost in the home. Watch for this behavior. Although being supportive and encouraging to younger siblings is a good thing there is a fine line between them taking on too much responsibility and no longer experiencing their childhood. One type of relationship in particular, the relationship between siblings, is unique. When a sibling dies, children may feel like they lost a best friend, a playmate and someone who loves and comforts them. Siblings often share a similar history and experience, building bonds that can potentially last a lifetime. Even at their worst, sibling relationships are significant and can negatively impact the life of a surviving sibling when the relationship is severed. Perhaps the most profound effects of the death of a sibling are the changes in the functioning and the structure of the family. When a child dies, parents are overcome with grief and may have difficulty performing their respective roles as a caregiver. Surviving children are left wondering what is going on or what they should do. Sometimes their response to a death seems inappropriate to adults, and children can develop a sense that their grief is wrong. Ultimately they may begin to feel that they don’t belong or that they don’t fit in. In some families, a surviving child may become a target for a parent’s anger over


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