Helping Your Child through Grief and Loss
Death is difficult even for adults, and for children, it can feel almost insurmountable. But as a parent or caring adult, you have a great natural ability to soothe and comfort a grieving child, even through your own immense sorrow.
Here are some valuable tips to help your child cope with the loss of a loved one:
- Teach them that death is part of life. Parents often avoid talking about death in an effort to protect their children from unpleasantness. Instead, look for teachable moments. Wilting flowers, changing seasons, or the loss of a family pet provide an opportunity to show that death is an inevitable part of life.
- Answer their questions—even the hard ones. When children ask questions about a death, it’s usually a sign that they’re curious about something they don’t understand. Let your child know that all questions are okay to ask and answer their questions truthfully. Do be sensitive to their age and the language you use. When a child asks what happened, use concrete words such as “died” instead of vague terms like “passed away.” A young child who hears his mother say “Dad passed away” or “I lost my husband” may expect his or her father to return.
- Don’t hide your grief. Children need to know that grieving is acceptable. Allow your child to see you cry. Emotional pain is part of losing a loved one.
- Allow them to grieve in their own way. Sometimes children in the same family will mourn differently. One child may want pictures and keepsakes of the person who died, while another may feel uncomfortable with too many reminders around. Some children want to talk about the death, while others want to be left alone. Some like to stay busy and others withdraw from activities. Ask your child what feels right to him or her, and don’t assume that what holds true for one child will be the same for another.
- Talk about and remember your loved one. Remembering the person (or pet) who died is part of the healing process. For example, you might say, “Your dad really liked this song,” or “Your mom was the best pie maker I know.” Bringing up the one who died gives your child permission to share his or her feelings. Some children also like to have keepsakes that belonged to their deceased loved one, especially objects that hold an emotional significance.
- Listen without judgment. One of the most helpful and healing things you can do for your grieving child is to listen to his or her experiences without jumping in to evaluate or fix them. Well-meaning adults often try to comfort children with phrases such as, “I know just how you feel”. While the intention is good, it negates the child’s feelings. Listening without judgment validates their experiences and emotions, and helps them regain a sense of security and control.
As a parent or concerned adult, you may forget about taking care of yourself when you’re bereaved. Children learn what they see, so be a role model for self-care at this critical time. If you need more guidance or additional support for your grieving child or for yourself, please reach out to our caring team.
About Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services: As a leading African American-owned and operated funeral and cremation organization serving three states, Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services has provided a ministry of care to thousands of grieving families. We promise to provide our highest level of distinguished service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. In all aspects of the funeral process, we strive to be the absolute best and are honored to help preserve our clients’ legacies for future generations. For more information, please call us at 215-549-4700 or visit our website.