|Give comfort, support |
COREY CONNELLY Sunday, March 19 2017
How does a family member break the news to a young child that his or her parent has died, more so tragically? This is the dilemma being faced by the relatives of late Woman Police Constable Nyasha Joseph as they prepare to honour the young officer’s life at her funeral service, scheduled for later this week.
Truth be told, there is no escaping such a heart-rending reality, according to neuropsychologist Dr Katija Khan.
She stressed, however, that, where possible, there must be an early victim support intervention __ Government- sanctioned or otherwise __ to help the child to transition.
“There must be some victim support, access to a counsellor or a psychologist who can help the family to transition and who can be there to work directly with the child or with the family to help the child,” she told Sunday Newsday.
Khan said the child should be told in simple, age-appropriate language.
“They do not need to know all of the details but they need to know in a way that they can understand what has happened,” she said.
“For example, the child can be told that a bad person hurt Mummy and she is not coming back.
“And, ff the family is religious, they can also say something like, ‘Mummy is in heaven or with baby Jesus.’” Khan said if the family had experienced other deaths, she could also be told that “Mummy is in heaven with grandpa or grandma.” “It is about using language that can help them understand and help them process.” Joseph, 22, was last seen alive two weeks ago when she left her Marie Road, Morvant, home, reportedly to attend to police business.
Her decomposing body was discovered, last Wednesday by a Felicity fisherman in the Gulf of Paria, just off Sea Lots.
Joseph’s remains were stuffed into a crocus bag.
Several people, including a man said to be in a close relationship with Joseph, have since been detained by police for questioning.
However, Joseph’s mother, Paula Guy, was quoted in a newspaper, last week, as saying that her four-year-old grand daughter is still unaware that her mother has died.
She said the girl was engaging in fun activities with other young children.
Khan, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists, said a therapist can use play to help a child cope wit their emotions.
“It is also good to maintain some of the routine for the child because this really traumatic change has happened in their life and they still need some semblance of structure and routine to help them cope.” As another coping mechanism, she said Joseph’s daughter could also be encouraged to honour her mother’s memory, either through a book with pictures or by planting a tree.
“All that can help with the grieving process.” At the other end of the spectrum, Khan said young children sometimes are not given enough credit in dealing with personal loss or tragedy.
She said: “Children are quite perceptive and intuitive so they can tell, even at a very young age, when something has changed or is different, especially if adults that are acting differently around them.
They might see people crying and might hear people talking and although they don’t understand all of the language, they know that something has changed.” Khan said children also grieve in their won way.
“One minute they might be crying and asking a lot of questions and another they might be playing and doing something unusual,” she said.
“So, it is also about letting them grieve and having the opportunity to ask a number of questions because they may not understand the whole concept of death and somebody not coming back.” Khan also responded to concerns about the influence of social media in potentially limiting the healing process.
“When they are very young, they might be shielded from it but kids who are older and can read the newspaper themselves and who have access to social media, I think that presents even more of a challenge,” she said.
“So, that is why it will be really important that they have some help and guidance through that grieving process so that they do not learn about news like that through social media but to have a family member or a therapist who can help explain some of that.
“People will say things about it (circumstances that led to the death) but they (children) have a base of information and somebody trusted that they could go to if they have questions.
“So, if they read something and it is upsetting and confusing, they have somebody that they can go to and say, ‘I read this about Daddy, I read this about Mummy, what is going on?’”