If your spouse just died due to what you consider a wrongful death situation, and you have children, your children are going to have to cope with the passing of their parent as well as the situation surrounding their death. Here are three ways you can support your child as they go through the grieving process and accept the wrongful death of their parent.
#1 Tell Your Child The Truth
The first thing that you need to do is make sure that you tell your child the truth. Do not sugar coat it or use vague words; this can confuse young children and can be frustrating for older children. Tell your children that their other parent has died or been killed; use wording that shows that what has happened is permanent. Do not use vague phrases such as "they went away" or "will not be around." Being specific and direct will help your child accept their parent's death.
You don't have to tell your child all the details of their parent's death, especially if it was gruesome or really painful. However, you shouldn't hide information either. You should let them know what happened and you should answer any questions that they have truthfully.
For example, if your spouse was killed during a workplace accident, tell your child that their other parent has died because of an accident that happened at work. If your child asks how the accident happened, tell them. If they ask if their parent was in pain, answer truthfully. Answering your child's questions truthfully will help your child increase their trust in you and fully understand what happened to their other parent.
#3 Understand Grieving Takes Many Forms
Do not be shocked if your child doesn't cry or act sad right away. Everyone grieves in their own way and their own time. Your child may want to cry by themselves in private. Your child may not really understand what your words mean until their other parent doesn't come home from work for multiple days or doesn't show up to an important event; your child may then get sad when the reality of what you told them really sinks in.
Do not try to force your child to grieve as you are; realize that it is a process and that your child will experience an emotional reaction on their own time-frame.
#3 Do Not Transfer Your Anger
If your spouse died because of what you consider a wrongful death, in addition to grieving, you may feel really angry about what happened to your spouse. Try to not transfer this anger to your children. Talk to adult friends or family members about the anger that you feel surrounding the circumstances of your spouse's death, but try not to talk like this in front of your children. You can also talk to your therapist about the anger that you feel. You don't want your children to develop and have to deal with anger over how their parent died as well as their grief.
If you decide to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, you can let your children know what you are doing, but try to frame it in a neutral manner. Your wrongful death lawsuit should not stress out your children; they already have enough to deal with. Talk to a lawyer like Shaevitz Shaevitz & Kotzamanis if you are planning on filing a lawsuit.