According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “At various developmental levels, children have a different understanding of the finality of death. Your approach to discussing death will depend on your child’s level of understanding of 4 main concepts of death:
- Irreversibility (i.e., death is permanent)
- Finality (i.e., all functioning stops with death)
- Inevitability (i.e., death is universal for all living things)
- Causality (i.e., causes of death)
Children’s lack of understanding of these ideas affects their ability to process what happened and cope with their feelings.”
While infants and very young children may not have an understanding of death, for older children death can be a life-altering experience. Older children will respond to death with a variety of feelings and emotions. When coping with death children may experience emotions that they’ve never experienced before in an intensity that is new to them. Children may feel confused, scared, sad, angry, relieved or guilty. They may feel shocked, unprepared or a combination of these emotions or more. When coping with death children may have trouble sleeping, eating and concentrating. They may lose interest in activities or just feel numb.
Nannies can play an active role in supporting children as they realize the death of a loved one or family pet and cope with the grief that accompanies that realization.