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How is the grieving process in children and adolescents? How should children whose relatives die be treated?

The severe earthquakes that occurred one after another in Turkey affected everyone from 7 to 70 psychologically. Thousands of people, who received the news of the death of their relatives, entered the process of mourning. Experts warned about the mourning process of children who lost their first-degree relatives. So, how is the grieving process in children and adolescents? What should be the approach towards bereaved children?

The destruction and losses left behind by the earthquakes that took place in Kahramanmaraş on February 6 stunned the whole of Turkey. While aid mobilization was organized by millions of people and aid organizations for the earthquake area, experts took action to help the earthquake victims get through this process quickly. It is emphasized that the death of relatives such as parents and siblings can lead to traumatic consequences, especially since children cannot control stress. Explaining the ways of coping with this, experts emphasize that the grief process should be controlled according to the age scale of the children who lost their first degree relatives (parents, siblings). Instructor Child and Youth Psychiatrist Prof. Dr. Sevcan Karakoç stated that children who experienced the earthquake were affected differently than adults and therefore the approach towards children should be different than adults.


Experts, who say that the reactions of children who have lost a loved one will be more and more uncontrolled than an adult, divide the reactions normally given in a loss into five groups and describe the situations encountered in children as follows:

“In the first shock phaseIt’s the time we call, they freezeAnd unresponsive It can be a group. An accompanying period of denial is happening. later anger, bargaining, depression There is continuity of the process in the form of acceptance. What we often encounter in children, acute period, the reaction we will see in the first days and first weeks is now shock, denial, and perhaps angerwill be in shape.”


While it is stated that the reactions to the law are very different between children and adolescents and adults; It takes time for children to understand the world and develop their brain and perception capacity. For this reason, 0 – 18 years old; The reactions to the law in infants, early childhood, primary school childhood and adolescence are different compared to adults. Children before the age of 6, called the play period, can understand concrete concepts more. Therefore, they may not be able to define abstract concepts such as death. Since children aged 0-6 cannot understand that death is an irreversible, universal truth, the knowledge that the deceased will not return, will not suffer, and is no longer alive, should be conveyed to children in a correct style.


Explaining death to children with concrete examples will enable them to spend the mourning process more calmly. prof. Dr. Karakoç talks about this issue as follows:

“Since young children cannot perceive abstract concepts very well, it is necessary to approach them with concrete examples. It may be leaves falling from a tree or an animal they have lost before. Or generally, the metaphor of a butterfly and a cocoon is used. ‘A butterfly that came out of its cocoon flew away, but its cocoon remained’ We can use concepts such as Even if it is in our cultural structure, some religious themes may not need to be mentioned. He became an angel , ‘went to heaven’ , ‘God took him’ It would be appropriate not to say such things, especially to young children. This time, small children can also ask Allah to take them with them. Or, on the contrary, he may rebel against God. Young children do not know these concepts. Therefore, it is necessary to explain with more concrete examples. ‘He went on a trip’ , ‘he went on a long journey’, which leaves children at an uncertain point and puts children in expectation. ‘When will he come, where has he gone’ They may ask questions such as For this reason, it should be more honest and conveyed in a clear and understandable language.”


Referring to the adaptation process of children who lost their parents, experts emphasize that the adaptation of children who lost their parents in the earthquake is very difficult. It is necessary to help children who have lost their relatives, home and school as a result of the earthquake, so that they can establish a reliable relationship again and have safe contact with the world.

Experts say that it will take time for children who have lost a loved one to accept the process. It is emphasized that if the insomnia, irritability, and disharmony that may occur in children after the news of death exceed 5-6 weeks, professional support should be sought.

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