In the book 150 Facts About Grieving Children by Erin Linn, it is noted that “almost every child will experience the death of a significant other, be it a pet, friend, or relative.” She also estimated that “about 1 out of 20 will experience the death of a parent by age 18.” While it is inevitable, talking to your children about loss and grief (especially after the loss of someone close) can be extremely challenging. However, in order to help your child through such a difficult time in his or her life, it is imperative to understand how to approach the situation. Explore several of the ways that moms can effectively help their children cope with grief.
Ask your child how he or she feels and listen
The loss of a family member, a friend, or someone else who is close to your family will be a shock to your child, no matter how old he or she is. Experts state that “grieving children will often look for reassurance.” The best way that you can offer this reassurance is by talking and actively listening to your children. Ask them how they feel (both physically and emotionally), and encourage them to talk about what has happened (if they feel comfortable doing so). If your children choose to open up and express their feelings, be sure to let them know that grief is indeed a normal process.
Give an age-appropriate explanation of ‘grief’ and ‘death’
If your child is still at an age where he or she is unfamiliar with the concepts of grief and death, take the time to give an age-appropriate explanation of each. Although it may be tempting, experts recommend staying away from euphemisms about death (e.g. ‘passing away’), as these can add to the confusion. Don’t be afraid to provide an honest, yet sensitive, explanation of the event that has occurred, and the feelings that follow.
Schedule a counseling session for your child (if appropriate)
In some cases, your child may be having a harder than normal time processing and grieving the loss. While every child will cope with the loss in his or her own way, and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to grieve, there are some concerning signs to watch for. If your child experiences an extended period of depression in which the child loses interest in daily activities and events, a sharp drop in school performance or refusal to attend school, acting much younger for an extended period, withdrawal from friends, or inability to sleep, loss of appetite, prolonged fear of being alone, it could be time to schedule a counseling session for him or her.
Death and grieving are a sad and unfortunate part of life. Each loss almost always impacts the life of a child. If you and your family have recently experienced the passing of a loved one, the strategies listed above will help your child better cope with the experience.