UAE children need help in overcoming death of loved one

Parents have been reminded that children often need psychological help to overcome the death of a loved one.

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DUBAI // Parents were reminded that children often need psychological help to overcome the death of a loved one.

Experts in the mental health of children said that without it youngsters can suffer from problems in later life.

At the Raymee Grief Centre, which is part of the Lighthouse Arabia community mental clinic, children and adults have grief counselling for free.

While some may feel that grieving is part of a natural process of recovering from tragedies, Dr Tara Wyne urged parents to seek help.

“The traditional mindset is that children don’t have an emotional life, and parents can do whatever children need for them. If a child is grieving or having issues, parents say they look fine and will bounce back,” she said.

How a child responds to grief differs according to their age because the way humans process grief changes as the brain develops.

Children aged three to five tend to believe death is not permanent and ask when the deceased will be back.

They also address their grief through play.

Children who are exposed to deaths through illness and hospital settings lean towards playing doctor.

“We all have the natural capacity to heal, but when it comes to accessing that natural capacity, we need certain things within our environment and we need support,” said Dr Wyne.

Children can feel isolated when they have lost a friend and it can develop into low self-esteem and depression and difficulty with personal relationships.

“I have worked with children who felt that because they fought with their sibling and told they hated them, and they died the next week in an accident, it’s their fault,” said counsellor Carey Kirk. At Lighthouse Arabia, she said, children get to meet others who have been through similar circumstances.

“We don’t have to wait for something to go wrong. We can just offer them the opportunity to talk about what’s happened,” said Ms Kirk.

P T, a 45-year-old life coach and psychology student whose father died was unable to answer her daughter’s questions about death and sought help.

“I had been struggling for four years to come to terms with the sudden death of my father and I could not speak about my father as the emotions that would rise up were too painful. However, my daughter very often had questions, and not being able to discuss her feelings was not fair. While searching on the internet I came upon the Lighthouse Arabia,” said P T.

She wanted to make sure that her daughter (at the time 10) was given the opportunity to talk freely about what happened with her grandfather.

“I noticed my daughter becoming more scared about my husband, myself, my mother dying. She would at times cry about losing her grandfather but I think it was the worry around death that really scared her.

“And since this is very much part of life, I needed to get her professional help to answer her questions, but also to help her deal with her emotions around the subject,” said the Swiss expatriate.

Once she started going for sessions at Raymee Grief Centre, she said her daughter could not wait to go back for the sessions and was taught the importance of feelings as well as how to cope with them.

P T’s advice to others in a similar situation is: “Don’t wait as long as I did. Don’t think that you need to do this on your own. Don’t ever think that getting help is a sign of weakness. I work in the mental health industry, so I should have had all the tools necessary to deal with grief on my own and be able to help my daughter. But my dad’s death was too close to the heart, and I needed to reach out, which was the best thing I could have ever done,” she said.