The death of a parent or other significant loved one can shatter a child's core beliefs about the world. (Harris, 1996) Everything in their life, from daily functioning to beliefs about the inherent goodness of life can be turned upside down. What was before a relatively safe and predictable world now becomes a scary, frightening and unpredictable place. Their belief in the invincibility of the adults they look up to for strength and wisdom flies right out the window. It's as though they suddenly woke up to a world full of kryptonite, where those they viewed ass superheros turn out to be frail and fragile after all. As a consequence, they are left dealing with a multitude of feelings as they struggle to come to grips with their loss.
Children may deal with lost hopes and dreams about the future When a child loses a parent, not only does he or she lose a support system, but they also lose a nurturer, a protector, a teacher, a role-model, and a primary source of guidance. (Webb, 1993) They lose an important attachment for which to share their life with. Thus the loss of a parent can mean more than a physical separation. It can mean the loss of hopes and dreams for the future, and grieving over the relationship that will never happen again. (Walsh & McGoldrick, 1991) Wedding days, graduation days, sports or academic accomplishments and other future milestones in life can E all be impacted. A child must deal with the loss of a future that might have been--a life they had planned to share with their loved one.
Children may deal with death through social withdrawal Social withdrawal often occurs after a death because the pain of the loss is so intense that it makes the child unwilling or hesitant to invest emotional capital in other relationships. We've all heard the saying, 'It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.' It's certainly true, but during times of loss it's quite common for survivors to question the validity of such an idea. Amidst the intense pain of grieving, it can make one wonder whether it's all worth it. So be it consciously or subconsciously, the death of a loved one often leads a child into social withdrawal. This response is helped along by the negative emotions a child is feeling, which regardless of the cause; don't exactly make someone jolly and sociable. Negative emotions tend to make people want to withdraw and hide in a corner, and they also turn others away, creating a self-reinforcing cycle. Amidst the aftermath of death, this combination may cause a child to view interpersonal relationships in a more negative way. (Cait, 2005)