Psychological trauma in children who have lost loved ones during the pandemic

Ho Chi Minh CityThe Department of Psychology, Children’s Hospital 2, Ho Chi Minh City, recently received many children suffering from severe psychological trauma, depression, and insomnia after the sudden loss of their parents due to Covid-19.

Master Mai Thi Nguyet, Department of Psychology, Children’s Hospital 2, Ho Chi Minh City, said that among the children, there are children with emotional and behavioral disorders (such as melancholy, crying without reason, decreased communication, etc.) restlessness, restlessness, chatter, panic attacks, nightmares); have children with obsessive-compulsive disorder (constantly washing hands and bathing, pacing, restlessness); or the child has a phobia disorder (such as fear of dirt, fear of infection, fear of talking)…

These signs can be noticed with each ageMaster Mai said. Children in kindergarten and primary school, seem hyperactive, talk a lot but do not have the right purpose to speak. Some children are taciturn and quiet, even losing their language completely; mood swings, shyness to interact with others, excitable, screaming. Or, the child is fussy, has trouble sleeping, or doesn’t sleep well; Children cling to adults and do not leave, anorexia or stop eating.

Older children (12-15 years) often complain of headaches, dizziness, abdominal pain, fatigue in the limbs, trouble sleeping or insomnia, and rapid heartbeat. Previously, children studied well, now they have poor concentration, lack of concentration, and it is difficult to complete work; or indifference to routine tasks, seem absent-minded, or have decreased or lost humor in communication. In addition, the child may have repetitive, irritable, and hostile behavior; frequent nightmares, or deep sleep; lack of confidence, withdrawing, afraid, crying a lot.

“Without timely psychological support, the child may fall into a more serious condition than dissociative stupor, panic, or the child will regress and temporarily lose consciousness, causing a loss of emotional control. emotions and behaviours”, said Master Mai.

According to statistics of the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs of Ho Chi Minh City, there are More than 1,400 children under the age of 18 are orphaned due to the pandemic, of which 66 children lost both parents, 19 infants lost their mothers at birth. In the fourth wave of the epidemic, the whole country recorded more than 23,000 deaths from Covid-19. Ho Chi Minh City is the most affected locality, with more than 17,000 cases.

Up to now, many children who suddenly lost loved ones have not yet stabilized their psychological state, such as 9-year-old Phuc Toan and his 7-year-old sister Bao Ngan in District 8. When their parents divorced many years ago, the two children and Thu Dieu’s mother moved to her grandmother’s house. Thu Dieu, 36 years old, pushes fruit carts all over District 8 to earn money to support her children. At the end of August, the whole family contracted Covid-19, Ms. Dieu, who had a heart valve disease, was in poor health and suddenly passed away.

Thu Tuyen – the biological aunt who is taking care of the two Phuc Toan brothers, said that when their mother died, the two children did not know because they were isolated upstairs, everyone tried to hide it. The next day, at the funeral ceremony, when they were brought down to see their mother for the last time, Toan and Ngan were shocked, sobbing, constantly calling for their mother.

Although the aunt took good care of her mother, to this day, the two children cry every night, especially Ngan. I often told Auntie Tuyen that I dreamed of my mother coming back, and she sat next to me but didn’t say anything. And Toan often told his sister: “My mother has gone to heaven, when I finished 12th grade, my mother came back to visit”.

Two children, 8-year-old Ngoc Han and 4-year-old Minh Quan, lost both their mother and grandmother in just two weeks. More heartbreaking, the two children accidentally witnessed the moment their mother was dying while medical staff tried to resuscitate her. Grandfather Nam of Han and Quan shared that during the day when the children play around the neighborhood or study, they rarely mention their mother and grandmother. At night, baby Quan was sleeping or sat up to find his mother, crying “I miss you so much, Grandma”.

“I don’t know what to do but comfort him, to tell the truth that his mother is dead, so that he can know and calm down,” Mr. Nam said.

Baby Han since the day her mother died, she talks less and plays games on the phone more. Loving you, Mr. Nam did not dare to scold or speak harshly. He said, it is better to let the children play to ease their sadness, than to be absentmindedly missing their mother.

Twice orphaned (his biological mother died of cancer when Lam was 3 years old, his adoptive mother was an uncle who died because of Covid-19), 8-year-old Thien Lam and two older sisters now rely on their biological uncle. I was just hanging around the house studying and playing by myself, when someone mentioned my mother, Lam burst into tears. Photo: English Letters

To support and ease the pain of loss for orphaned children, psychologists advise relatives to ensure 5 basic needs for their children. That is, children need to be fully assured of daily material such as food, shelter, air, sleep (physiological needs). They need to be protected, ensuring a safe environment in the family (safety needs). Children need to have emotional exchanges, to be cared for, to talk to people (social needs).

Children who lose their parents will feel overwhelmed and easily lose interest. Therefore, the attention and respect of those around will help children become stronger and more confident to overcome grief (the need to be respected). In addition, children need to be supported in a learning environment and connect with friends, enhance their values ​​to have the opportunity to express their wishes (the need for self-expression).

Particularly for children who are withdrawn and are afraid to communicate with strangers, Master Mai advises relatives to arouse children’s emotions through games and movements appropriate for each age, prioritizing activities that children previously loved. . At the same time, relatives need to listen, respect, empathize and accept all of the child’s unpleasant emotions and behaviors, help the child express his or her thoughts and feel safe around the guardian. From there, children will learn how to face the truth, confront and overcome fear.

English Letters

FPT is opening a portal to call for ideas and solutions for a boarding school to raise 1,000 orphans due to Covid-19. Readers can submit their wish to contribute to the school here.


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