There are no words to describe the experience of losing a parent — of knowing that someone who had been a constant part of your life is now permanently gone. The loss of dad or a mom brings forth lasting psychological effects on children, whether they’re still young or already adult. Its impact can also be seen physically.
The Psychological Impact
The loss of dad or a mom can impact the brain. As everyone has to deal with grief no matter what age they lost their parent, the experience alters brain chemistry just the same. However, the extent of impact differs from person to person, situation to situation.
If a child is aware of a parent’s nearing repose, the psychological consequences can be less severe. They’ll have the time to say their goodbye while having an adequate support system from siblings (if any), the other parent, other relatives, and friends.
If the death is unexpected, it can be more traumatic, and there will be a graver impact (e.g., longer denial and angry phases). In addition, if the sudden death happens in childhood, they’ll have a higher risk of developing long-term mental health issues. These include anxiety, depression, and chemical dependency (e.g., drug or alcohol abuse).
It can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. In this case, the child will experience nightmares, flashbacks, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, and general disinterest in life.
The extent of the impact can also be affected by the relationship between the deceased and the child. If there are unresolved issues like resentment, the bereaved will further be burdened by the lack of opportunity to reconcile. This situation is more mentally and emotionally taxing.
Physical Symptoms To Watch Out For
When the brain processes grief, these regions are affected: the cerebellum, posterior cingulate cortex, and frontal cortex. As these are the very regions that manage our appetite and sleeping pattern, the loss of dad or a mom can also lead to physical symptoms such as insomnia or oversleeping and lack or excessive appetite.
This physical distress is generally a short-term consequence. In the long run, unresolved grief can cause more serious conditions. Studies show that immense, long-term grief is linked to higher risks of hypertension, cardiac issues, and immune disorders. There are also cases when it can be linked to cancer. This can be attributed to the negative impact of a parent’s death on a child’s fight-or-flight response. With weaker immune responses, the body becomes more vulnerable to diseases.
What You Can Do
There are different ways in which bereaved children — young or old — grieve over the loss of a parent. First and foremost, you have to give them the time and space to breathe and process their emotions. If you’re part of their support system, it’s essential to let them know that you’re there for them whenever they’re ready to open up.
Once they open up, lend an ear to their thoughts. Be careful with your words as it can affect their mourning and recovery process. Apart from emotional support, you can also provide practical help and be sentimental by giving sympathy gifts.
When professional intervention is needed to help them get back on track, offer your support instead of judging their situation.
Giving sympathy gifts to a child for a loss of dad, can help them move forward, knowing they have a support group to lean on. Find gifts to show you care at Remember Me Gifts online.