Losing a loved one is never easy. It might not be obvious but children feel grief just like older people do. To help your child cope with loss, it’s always a good idea to create an environment of acceptance and comfort.
Don’t underestimate your child. It might be helpful to use language that will help them understand the heavy topic of death. Ashley Curiel, PsyD. explains that “Everyone grieves differently; there is no right or wrong way and there is no schedule.” However, you should never leave out details because you think they’re too young to understand, or they’re too young to be exposed to such things. We must acknowledge that death is a chapter we all have to deal with in our lives. Protecting our children from that reality will prove to be much more detrimental than it seems. Talk to your kid about what happened. Let them ask questions and answer them as honestly as you can.
Children are more sensitive than we think. It might even be harder for them to deal with these overwhelming emotions at this age. You should create an atmosphere that encourages them to be vulnerable but secure. Always treat them empathically, because they are at a fragile state in their formative years. You may be dealing with your own grief, but you must remember that you are not on your own anymore – you’re a parent to your child. Be mindful of how you interact with your kid. Even if you don’t mean it, your actions or words could make them feel hurt and closed off. It’s important to provide a sturdy support system so they can fully and properly heal. Because Curt Drennen, PsyD, RN said, “Sometimes people seem to deny, to be in a daze, but these are all coping mechanisms.”
“Out of sight, out of mind” isn’t applicable when dealing with matters of death. Just because the person is gone doesn’t mean they won’t live on in your hearts. Memorialize them in small ways, so your child never forgets who they were and what they meant to him. Show your kid pictures if you have any, play their favorite songs or watch their favorite movies. You can even tell them anecdotes that will make them laugh or remember the person’s characteristics. Let them join in the conversation as well. Ask them what they liked most about the person, what their favorite memories with them were. Talk about the person in an endearing way, so your child will always cherish the fond memories they have of them. It’s also a good idea to memorialize the person you and your child lost, so you can both have an outlet for closure.
Let Them Grieve In Their Own Way
Everyone deals with the loss of someone dear in different ways. “As we process the reality of our loss, we are also trying to survive emotional pain.” Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP explains. Some children like to keep talking about it. Some children like to draw how they feel. What’s important is that you nurture these activities so they can be encouraged to cope in a healthy way with their loss. Art therapy is a common way. Arts and crafts give children an avenue to express how they feel and what they’re thinking. It might be difficult for them to fully comprehend and much more explain their grief. But, creating works of art can be an outlet for their pent-up emotions.
Some children might also exhibit out-of-the-ordinary behaviors like insisting to carry around a photo or some memorabilia of the person with them everywhere. Another example of these behaviors is constantly wanting to visit a certain place that holds sentimental value for them and their loved one. These may be inconvenient and unreasonable, but that’s not the point of being a supportive parent. You might feel exhausted and shortchanged, especially with your own emotions and loss to deal with. But, your child should be put first because they don’t know how to take care of themselves just yet.