Helping Children with Grief and Loss

The loss of a loved one is difficult for people of all ages, children included. Depending on the age of the child, there can be a lot of challenges that make it difficult to understand how to help them grieve. Very young children might not understand what death is. Children who are somewhat older might understand death, and its permanency, but they may not have the emotional intelligence to express themselves properly.

The first thing to keep in mind when helping children deal with grief and loss is to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Children are empathic, and they may well try to emulate your grieving process. Putting on a brave face might seem like the right idea, but children may try to copy that behaviour. Don’t be afraid to cry in front of children. Talk with them, ask them how they’re feeling, and share how you are feeling. You still need some boundaries, of course; becoming angry with your children is not an appropriate response, and if you need time to yourself, it’s fine to call a family member to ask for help.

There are a few guidelines that might help you discuss death. The first is to have the discussions when you’re in a position to be empathetic; expect a lot of questions and don’t divulge too much information, especially if your child is young. When asked a question, be direct with your answers. Use the word death; euphemisms can be confusing, especially when a child is young, and older children may resent sugar-coating. Answer honestly and don’t be afraid to tell the child you don’t know how to answer. Death is the great unknown and no person can answer every question about it.

Routines are of particular importance to children, so do what you can to keep their schedules the same. This is obviously not always possible; don’t hesitate to recruit friends and family to help when needed.

The way children react to loss can be unpredictable. More to the point, the way anyone reacts to loss can be unpredictable. Abandon most expectations about how your child should react. They may cry, they may hardly react at all, they may go back to whatever it was they were doing. Everyone’s process is different; being available and empathetic is what’s most important.

Take this time to do things as a family. Go over photos of loved ones, tell stories, share memories. Laugh, cry, and spend time together. Children can express their grief in all kinds of different ways. When behaviour is particularly destructive or the child’s behaviour changes for a long time, don’t hesitate to seek counselling.

We offer professional funeral services in McCreary. That means we’re here for you in your times of need; we’ll work together and arrange the funeral with you. We’ll also be there if you have any questions about grieving and loss; we want to help you in any way we can.

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