The goal of the study was to explore the needs of widowed parents in assisting their children in the grieving process. The researcher chose this specific research topic for a number reasons, primarily based on her own observations and contact of her external world as the researcher had either come into direct contact with, or become aware of families in her community where one of the parents in families with children in early and/or middle childhood had passed away. Loosing a parent through death is a very traumatic experience for a child. How the child reacts to and deals with this trauma in the long-term, is greatly influenced by how the remaining parent reacts to and deals with the death him or herself, as well how he or she assists the child in the grieving process. Secondly, the research topic fits within the social work context as bereaved families may turn to the social work profession for guidance and assistance in understanding and resolving their loss. Therefore, the researcher was of the opinion that it would be of value to gain knowledge of the specific needs of the widowed parents in helping their children during the grieving process in order to offer these families more direct, focused and valuable assistance. The researcher made use of a qualitative approach in order to explore and gain an understanding of the needs of widowed parents' experiences in assisting their children in the grieving process. The researcher used applied research for her study, as it was hoped that the information gained would provide further knowledge to help the social work profession in assisting widowed parents and their children in the grieving process. Seven respondents were identified and chosen primarily through a non-probability sampling technique of purposive sampling. As the initial number of respondents were limited, the researcher also made use of the snowball sampling technique to further increase her sample. Data for the study was gathered by means of semi-structured one-to-one interviews, with the use of an interview schedule in order to gain a detailed picture of the widowed parents' perceptions and experiences of helping their children come to terms with the death of their parents. In studying the literature the researcher focused on two main aspects. Firstly, the children's grieving process, including their understanding of death, reaction to the death of a parent, as well as the actual grieving process of parentally bereaved children. Secondly, the researcher focused on the needs of widowed parents in assisting their children in the grieving process, including the important role they play in this process, their own emotions, challenges they are faced with in this process, the impact the death has on the family's functioning in relation to Maslow's hierarchy of needs and finally the availability and use of support systems for widowed parents. The findings of the study showed that all the respondents were aware of the impact the death had on their children, especially as most of the deaths were sudden and unexpected. Many needs were experienced, including telling the children about the death, loneliness, and perhaps the most difficult of all, finding a balance between expressing their own grief so that their children felt free to grieve but at the same time not falling apart completely, thereby overwhelming their children. Overall the researcher found that it appeared more important to the widowed parents that their children's needs be taken care of above their own. In concluding the study the researcher was of the opinion that grieving the loss of a loved one involves much more than just a process of steps. It encompasses a wide range of tasks, emotions, thoughts and behaviours. Therefore, in terms of helping to meet the needs of widowed parents in assisting their children in the grieving process, one cannot just make assumptions and based on this follow a set formula. Families, with children in early and middle childhood, who have lost a parent through death, find themselves in a very vulnerable and fragile state. The way they deal with the loss and the support they are given both informal and formal, can have a very significant impact on the future functioning of the remaining family members both individually and as a whole. Therefore, it is imperative that those assisting the family through the loss have knowledge of their needs so that they can assist them in a way that can bring about healing and restoration.
Dissertation (MSD (Play Therapy))--University of Pretoria, 2008.