Emotional Fright and Grief in Children
Updated: Feb 21
There are few situations in which parents feel less helpless than when their child experiences emotional fright or grief. We wish we could give them the perspective of our wisdom, the knowledge that everything passes and the understanding of context But instead we are left with little but our loving hearts, to hold them in their pain, if they will let us. All we can do is wait it out witnessing their growth as they integrate the shocking reality that life walks hand in hand with the unexpected, with loss and with pain.
When parents approach me for help for their child, for a minor emotional fright from hearing bad news or witnessing an accident or trauma, or for grief from the loss of a loved one, or animal, or the unexpected severing of a friendship, or divorce in the family, I often advise Bach Flower Remedies. I find Rescue Remedy is very useful when the child is in a state of minor shock, or when the loss is natural, and when the response is healthy, albeit upsetting. It's important to remember that grief is a natural and healthy response to loss and the process should not be interfered with too much, unless it becomes pathological.
So when is grief considered pathological ?
Grief is serious (or pathological), when despair sets in and interferes with the normal day to day of our lives. Obviously we have to give a child (and ourselves), some time to adjust to an emotional loss but after a few weeks we would hope to observe a return at least to some 'normal' behaviours. The loss of a beloved family member or pet, friend or family home, through a move or divorce, can disturb a child's emotional equilibrium. We can look to rituals to help children integrate these experiences which are in many ways a death, an experience of what Clasrissa Pinkola Estes refers to as, the life/death/life process.
In the Jewish tradition seven days of mourning are observed following the death of an immediate family member. The family stay in one house and the community come to pay their respects. Following this, a thirty day period is marked with some other rituals, (such as men not shaving or grooming themselves), and then a one year period is marked with a yearly memorial - a visit to the grave, lighting a memorial candle and sharing a family meal. This marking of time, allows the the mourner a healthy integration back into daily life. When a child suffers a loss, you can help them navigate the loss by marking time in a ritualistic way. It need not be so lengthy, but some mark of agreed upon time gives them a boundary and a space in which their feelings can be safely expressed.
I have found children respond well to ritual as a way to manage grief. They can write a letter or keep a journal. They can send a message in a lantern and release it up into the night skies or in a bottle and drop it into the ocean. They can light a candle or engrave the name of their loved one on a bracelet or pendant. They can burry an article they associate with the loved one in a ceremony of closure. They can write a story or draw or paint an image which they can frame and hang in their room. When elderly family members die, remembering them is important for family constellation health. I encourage parents to hold children in their grief without becoming engulfed themselves. If your child's grief triggers your own , seek homeopathic support or grief counselling.
If your child looses his appetite, locks himself in his room for days, suppresses his emotions, shuts down or does the opposite - can't stop crying. Or if she can't sleep, has continual intrusive thoughts, repeated bad dreams or nightmares, or if there is any mention of self harm, a professional should be consulted. These are pathological disturbances that must be taken seriously and treated according to their emotional weight.
Some children are very sensitive to hearing bad news or frightening or violent stories. (Share this information with your homeopath as it is an important indicator, pointing towards some specific remedies). As parents, we can protect these children to a certain extent by shielding them from exposure to the internet, media and certain social environments, but at some point they will probably come across something that is too much for their delicate psyche to manage and they may start acting out or sobbing, wetting the bed at night, regressing, waking from nightmares, or they may withdraw, stop eating and become depressed.
Creating a safe space for them to communicate whatever they have experienced is crucial. Enquire using reflective listening. There is a great book on effective communication and reflective listening called, How to Talk So Kids will Listen, and Listen So Kids will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, which I recommend to parents. It works on kids of all ages, and on spouses too ;). The idea being that the child's emotions are validated and reflected back to them so they feel emotionally heard and that naturally encourages them to resolve their conflict or situation on their own, giving them skills, emotional independence and confidence.
There are specific homeopathic remedies for fright such as Aconite and Stramonium - an excellent remedy for night terrors. Often a child will only need a single dose of Stramonium; it really is quite miraculous and many a parent has become a lifelong advocate of homeopathy from this single remedy. Aconite is a good remedy for panic attacks, when the child is overcome with a real sense of panic. They feel they are in danger with an increased pulse rate, sweat, trembling, dry mouth etc. It is a well known remedy for sudden onset of any pathology following exposure to cold or cold winds.
Grief remedies such as Ignatia and Nat-mur may be used to treat children stuck in grief. These remedies tend to be for the emotionally sensitive types. The person needing Ignatia suffers terribly from loss of love, whether it be from a partner, a best friend, a crush or the parent of the opposite sex. There is a romantic nature to the patient and to the relationship. Women who lose their beloved fathers may need this remedy as much as teen daughters who weep silently in their room because their crush is ghosting them on social media. They tend to be creative and artistic types, refined but emotionally fragile. While those needing Nat-mur are more closed with their emotions, and may only break down with one or two trusted people. Their wounds tend to be deeper, and they may also crave salty foods. The term pouring salt on an open wound comes to mind with this remedy.
These are just a few remedy choices for children suffering from grief or loss. A qualified homeopath will take a complete case to determine the best fit.
Rebecca Bermeister is a certified Classical Homeopath available for online consultations or treatments from her home clinic in Pardes Chanah, Israel.
She can be reached via her webpage www.rebhomeopath.com
email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Whatsapp - +972(0)547793606
Her book, A Very beginners Guide to Homeopathy and Family Health can be purchased here.