Grief and loss

Grief and mourning in children and young people is often dismissed or misunderstood. While children and young people’s grief may present differently to adults, this does not mean they do not experience it. Domestic homicide results in complex losses for children and young people, and their experience of grief and mourning will be multifaceted. In the aftermath of domestic homicide, children and young people may experience profound internal shifts that impact their sense of safety or understanding of the world and their relationships, and their concept of self or identity. Concurrently, there may be dramatic changes in their external worlds in terms of residence, school, neighbourhood and friends.

Children and young people may have a deep connection and attachment to the parent who was killed and/or the perpetrating parent, with a strong desire for stories, mementos and information that will help them remember and understand. Other children and young people who were very young at the time of the homicide may need additional support to comprehend the meaning of death, and to express and make sense of their experiences as they age.

Children and young people’s grieving experience may be complicated due to their developmental age, the stigma associated with homicide (and potentially suicide or imprisonment), the traumatic nature of the loss, the caregivers own mourning processes, among other factors.

In this context, practitioners may reflect on the following questions:

  • In addition to losing the deceased parent, what other losses could the child or young person be grieving?
  • How can we help children and young people remember and learn more about their deceased parent when they need to?
  • How can we help children and young people grieve depending on their personal needs and culture?

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