October is a month full of fun fall festivities. Who doesn’t love picking out the perfect pumpkin to carve and dressing up for Halloween adventures? While Halloween is often associated with dressing up and getting candy, it is also a time where fears and nightmares become a popular topic.
It is important to identify and validate the fear children and teens experience after the death of a loved one. We are going to explore a few thoughts to keep in mind this Halloween season and all year round.
After the death of a loved one, it is not uncommon for children of all ages to experience regression. For some, this may look like having trouble sleeping in their own bed or having bathroom accidents throughout the night. Children are often regressing back to a point in their life where they have felt the safest, which includes times where they were the center of attention and given whatever they needed, often in very young years. During this so-called spooky season, we can see children become more afraid of things such as the dark or being alone.
For many children and teens, the death of someone significant to them can bring on a fear of losing other loved ones. They can become afraid of what could happen to their living loved ones. Topics around ghosts, zombies, and spirits can be overwhelming to children after the death. At a time of year where death is so openly discussed and is made into such a scary subject, addressing what is real and fake surrounding the idea of death can help reduce a child’s anxieties. It is important to recognize what your child is experiencing and if they need to be limited on content in some of these areas.
So, what helps?
At Erin’s House, we encourage providing validation and support to your children during these times. Being compassionate to the fact that they are experiencing big, unfamiliar emotions that they don’t know how to handle can make all the difference. If they need some extra time with you or support throughout the night, you can provide that by giving them permission to come to your room or use a nightlight. Children and teens can often feel shame regarding their experience of regression so listen to their needs and offer a few suggestions.
It is also important to have open and honest conversations. Some children and teens may be curious about the death of their person and have questions they are afraid to ask. Letting your child know that you are available to talk can often be exactly what they need. Sometimes, it is simply knowing that they have options — that alone can bring children and teens comfort and security even when things might feel dark or scary.
Erin’s House is here to support our community through their grief. If you are in need of resources or support, please reach out to us to speak with a Child Grief Specialist: Info@ErinsHouse.org or 260.423.2466.
Written by: Kathryn McLaughlin MS.Ed, LMHCA | Special Programs Coordinator & Child Grief Specialist