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Care of the Dying - Death of an Older Child or an Adolescent

There is nothing worse.

From the age of three years onward, a child begins to understand the concept of death and dying. The dying child feels protective toward his or her parents. Although the child desperately needs to talk about what is going to happen, he or she may never get close to the subject. The child may attach himself or herself to a nurse or physician while still relying on the parents. By doing this, the child is sharing the emotional responsibility. The parents may find this difficult to accept, but must realize that someone else can perhaps give more help by listening dispassionately to the child's fears and anxieties.


The child who seems to have no idea about what is happening is better left in ignorance, but the child who asks "Am I going to die?" may be happier knowing the truth. He or she can then talk more openly about the worries and uncertainties and bring comfort to himself or herself as well as to the parents. The child may be comforted by knowing the religious beliefs that surround death. Often it is the moment of death that the child fears. He or she needs to know that dying is usually calm and peaceful.


An adolescent in the same situation has reached a more logical and dispassionate view of life. He or she may reject the comfort that religious beliefs can bring. An adolescent rightly feels that life is unjust and unfair. He or she has been striving to find independence only to discover that he or she is totally dependent on the family once again. It takes a wise physician or friend to help the isolated adolescent.


Parents who lose a child at any age need help and sympathy after the death. The physician's job is to help the bereaved parents. This help must also be extended to brothers and sisters also, whose grief may go unnoticed by the overburdened parents.

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