Most children are aware of death and loss. They may have friends who have lost loved ones, or they may have seen it in cartoons, TV shows, or movies. This said, unless your child has experienced loss firsthand, they will not know how to process the grief that comes with this type of loss.
You have to realize that loss is a part of life, and you cannot protect your children from this feeling. It is your job as their caregiver to help them understand these feelings and learn how to process them in a healthy way. So, how can you help your children cope with grief?
Today, we’re going to explore ways to help your child grieve so that they can develop the healthy coping mechanisms they will need to deal with loss throughout their lives.
Topics to Discuss with Your Grieving Child
Before we get into specific tips for helping your child cope with loss, let’s go over the two critical topics you will want to broach within your family regarding loss and grief.
The Concept of Afterlife
The first topic is the concept of an afterlife. Suppose you have certain religious beliefs that talk about what you believe happens after someone passes from this world. Maybe you believe in a heaven or space where someone lives on after their body on our planet passes. Maybe you believe in a reincarnation system where our loved ones are reborn in a balanced cycle.
This can be an excellent time to share these beliefs with your child. Even if you do not have any religious beliefs, it can still be incredibly helpful for children to hear that once someone passes, they still live on in the memories, hearts, and minds of their loved ones.
Attending the Funeral
The second topic you’ll want to think about is whether or not you want your child to attend the funeral of the loved one. This decision will depend completely on you and your child (or children). Some children may find a funeral provides an incredible sense of closure, but other children may not be ready for the atmosphere and experience that a funeral has.
Keep in mind that children are not adults. We know, that’s obvious. But it is crucial to remember that children may not react expectedly in intense situations. Even the most well-behaved children may get upset or break down in an unfamiliar experience.
Tips for Helping Your Child Deal with Grief
Now, without further ado, here are some tips to help you encourage healthy coping mechanisms for your grieving child (or children). Keep in mind that each family is different, and each child will have their own unique way of displaying their emotions. This said, the tips below can be used to help guide your child through their grieving and help them to express their emotions in a healthy way.
Encourage Them to Express Their Emotions
Speaking of expressing emotions, one of the best things you can do to help your child grieve is to encourage them to do just that. When we try to hide our feelings and bury our emotions, we typically end up feeling much worse. Unfortunately, many children grow up being told to “suck it up” or “act more mature” when they are having a hard time. This can be incredibly damaging and make it much harder for your child to express their emotions later in life.
So, encourage your child to express their emotions. If they cannot do this in words, you may want to consider other forms of expression — like drawing, painting, making a scrapbook, telling stories, or looking at photo albums.
Use Age-Appropriate Language, But Be Direct
You may think you are sparing your child from the pains of loss when you tell them their loved one has simply “gone to sleep.” This can actually make them fear bedtime because they worry that one day they will not be able to wake up, just like their loved ones. The truth is, kids are incredibly literal; euphemisms are not your friend when you are talking to kids about death.
Also, it is crucial that you do not overwhelm your kids with too much information about what has happened. Sometimes more information does more harm than good. This is especially true with younger children who may not understand the permanence of death. So, instead of trying to explain everything, try focusing on just answering the questions your children ask.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
Our kids look to us for a lot more than we even realize. Whether we know it or not, our children typically imitate the behaviors that we display. So, when we express our grief in healthy ways — rather than exploding or breaking down after bottling things away — our kids will also learn healthy ways of coping.
Stick to Your Routines
One of the best things you can do to help your children through any type of new or challenging time is to embrace your routines. Children really benefit from the structure that a routine brings to the table. Keeping your child’s life as normal as you can during this time is going to be the best way to help your child realize that while dealing with loss is important, life does go on, and their routines do not need to be changed.
Consider Speaking with a Therapist
If you’ve already tried the tips above or you are looking for additional guidance on how to help your child grieve, talking with a therapist may be your next step. You may notice that your child seems unusually upset or unable to cope with the loss. In this case, introducing them to a therapist who can help them navigate these feelings may be the best way to help them overcome their block and move on from the loss.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to us today at Love Heal Grow if your child is having difficulty grieving or you are simply looking for another safe outlet for them to express their feelings during the grieving process.