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How you can help your child process death

Body language expert Blanca Cobb shares ways a parent can help their child process death.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In Prince Harry's new book, Spare, he reveals that he thought his mother, Princess Diana, wasn't dead for many years. It wasn't until he was 23 that he finally accepted that his mother had died.

And this got us thinking about how children process death. It can be incredibly difficult for a child when their parent dies. 

The love, support, and security that they had with the deceased parent rocks their foundation. Having a surviving parent doesn't make up for the loss. Some children might hope against hope that the deceased parent isn't really dead and might come back. 

This is precisely what Prince Harry revealed that he thought his mother, Princess Diana, wasn't really dead. He thought that she might come back. It took years for him to accept that she wasn't. Children can experience depression, anxiety, nightmares, academic and emotional difficulties, and uncertainty because they're not sure what tomorrow will bring.

Grieving children need a strong, patient, and understanding support system. They need to process the avalanche of emotions, fears, and concerns. They shouldn't worry about any expectation of how to act, grieve, or adjust if it's healthy and adaptive. 

Grief can be a lonely experience because they might feel that others don't really understand the depth of the loss, and they might have a hard time explaining the impact.

Understanding why their parent and feelings of abandonment, which generally leads to anger, is one of the biggest struggles that children have when a parent dies. It's important to reassure children that the parent didn't have a choice. They didn't want to die or choose to die.

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