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Dealing with Toddler Grief(10 Posts)
Regular user 4+ yrs but first time poster. My CM died unexpectedly around 5 weeks ago after a short illness. My DS 3 has turned into a different child who constantly whinges/cries for what appears to be no reason. He is more clingy than before and refuses to spend any time with GP's and aunts unless I or his Dad are present. Everything is an issue for him or a reason to cry and it's really wearing us all down. I feel like all I do is give out at him which I pretty much do as it's draining me and DP. We explained the CM was ill and died and didn't make up any stories about heaven etc. and he seemed fine with it however the constant bad behaviour and wanting the opposite of everything just isn't normal for him and I'm not sure what to do - there doesn't seem to be much out there regarding grieving toddlers. He is quite aware for his age so I'm willing to give anything a go to make home life a little happier!!
It all seems a bit abrupt for a three year old OP.
CM got sick and died.
Perhaps he needs to do something such as send a message to his CM...leave some flowers or plant a tree.
It's all very well not telling them about spirits or heaven but they do need something. That's why those things exist I suppose.
I did summarise for the sake of not leaving a huge post as this isn't my issue! CM was ill quite a bit this year and he was fully aware. Of course we explained in much more detail when she passed and he seems to have accepted this but his behaviour issues seem to stem from this event. I've spoken to a trained grief counsellor who advises the heaven/spirit side isn't the way to go as children do not understand that heaven is a place of no return and think they can visit. These are really to make us adults feel better I've learned - I was told I needed to be blunt about death. Clearly his emotions are not what they were before and wondered if there was something I could do to tackle this. He did attend her funeral as I wanted to be as open as possible and he has been back to the grave as GP's are buried in same cemetery. I do like the flowers/tree idea though, thank you, maybe it would help to continue addressing the issue directly.
I'm amazed that the grief Councillor said that That cuts Christianity out the picture!
There is nothing wrong with a child believing in heaven. It's comforting for many children. My sister died 18 months ago and her 4 and 6 year old children were very reassured that she had gone to heaven!
OP with respect you haven't told him anything comforting. You have left him to sort out what death means by himself. Assuming he was close to his CM that is very hard.
My advice is to tell him that she is in heaven and when he get's old and dies one day he will see her again. In the meantime put some flowers on her grave together.
Again I've not gone into full detail about my discussions with DS of which there have been many and they have been from a point of view of making this as easy as possible for him being as sensitive as possible while sticking to the truth. We started with heaven etc. even though I don't believe myself and am not religious but this brought so much confusion and questions, I actually think the advice about not mentioning it was brilliant and is practised here in NI when it comes to children/grief. I'm asking for help not judgement on how to go forward when his emotions are not as they were. She was a neighbour and family friend for 25+ years and he was with her everyday so he misses her and help in dealing with this from others who have experienced something similar is all I was looking for. Maybe my point is being missed, maybe it's my fault for not oversharing on the details.
Yes you are drip feeding but it's ok, I get you now.
His emotions are a lot to do with your own confusion though which is why I said that. I'm not trying to make you feel bad, I'm trying to help you realise that as you don't know how to handle talking about death he is having a hard time understanding it.
Children handle missing people ok when they have a sense of closure. My niece and nephew were very sad at losing their mum but were able to be matter of fact as they had a story about heaven in their minds. It doesn't have to be heaven but it has to be something meaningful, spiritual and positive. Otherwise it's going to be hard.
I'm sorry that your DS is having to cope with this so young. He's lost someone who was significant in his life so to be up and down and extra clingy after 5 weeks sounds pretty normal to me.
This is a nice book for helping children with grief, with a positive message that isn't confusing or euphemistic www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1408326345/_encoding=UTF8?coliid=IOR7Z8HE73N0U&tag=mumsnetforum-21&colid=Y2QV0THPV8JO
Your DS probably also wants lots of reassurance that you and DH aren't going to die. My DS is also 3 and a friend's daddy, who he knew (although was not close to) died suddenly a couple of weeks ago. He has been very wobbly as a result and keeps asking if we are going to die and what would happen to him if we die and he's all alone. We have been pretty matter of fact about death too, I think that's the best way with wee ones.
Toddlers are pretty much the centre of their own world so I guess it's not surprising that grief translates into worrying that their own nearest and dearest will die, and therefore into clinginess. But really hard for them to process. I hope things get better for your little one.
Thanks myself and DP are doing exactly what has been advised I just wanted to know if I could do more. CM is talked about daily with the new CM and ourselves. We pass her house and speak about CM family members. We are constantly reassuring him Mum and Dad are there for him and won't be going anywhere. He is still so confused over heaven though and thinks the CM's family can just go visit her there so I'm not Ok with lying about something I have no belief in. We plan to visit the cemetery this weekend with some flowers. I naively thought by posting here that fellow users would presume I'm taking the normal action as any parent would. I will remember for future posts! Replies have been very useful and have reinforced we are doing all we can. Amazingly he seemed to turn a corner yesterday and his whole mood appeared much more relaxed and we had plenty of chat about CM last night. Thanks again everyone.
Sounds like you are doing all the right things nornironlady - it is bound to take time to adjust. There is no one way to deal and you shouldn’t feel pushed into telling what you think are fairy stories.
That said I wonder if I would stop visiting the cemetery - I suspect a funeral was already quite serious and sad for such a young one. Maybe plant a tree in your own garden to remember her and speak about your CM if he prompts you to. But otherwise I am sure he will settle down again soon. I think visiting graves etc is a very adult thing and don’t think it would give any comfort to a young child.
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