Losing a parent to death or to divorce is catastrophic for any child. There are different issues in the grief process between the death of a parent and death of your parent’s marriage.
When a child loses a parent due to death even young children can understand the concept that the body quit working. They all come across toys or things that break and quit working. Most have experienced the death of a pet, a goldfish or an insect they have found. While I’m not comparing the death of a goldfish to the loss and the grief involved in the death of a parent, the concept I want to convey is the idea of things no longer working. The goldfish’s body quit working. The toy quit working. The body of their parent quit working. That is the beginning of understanding the death of their parent.
In the death of a parent, other family members, the church, neighbors and possibly even the co-workers of the parent surround most families. Meals are brought in; gifts for the kids might be left. The remaining parent grieves and may weep and hug their child a lot. There is a lot of support and acknowledgment of the death. Ever so slowly the family develops a new normal and life moves forward.
There is no fighting about the kids and which parent the child will live or when the child will visit the other parent. There is no confusion about the parent that died loving the child. The parent is gone but the child still knows the parent is still part of the family unit, even if he or she is in heaven. The child doesn’t question the unity that brought him or her into existence. The other parent may pull out pictures and the child sees and remembers family life and the love that existed.