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Helping Your Child Through Loss and Grief
March 01, 2019

Children today are experiencing many kinds of losses. 

Helping children deal with loss, whether it be as a result of normal transitions like adjusting to a move or a new baby in the family, a death of a pet, or more serious losses, like a parent leaving for war, job loss, serious illness or death in the family - what children need most from us is for us to teach them basic lessons of the heart.

We can't take away the pain of another, even that of a child, but our sense of helplessness need not restrain us from reaching out to her. Never underestimate the power of love.

Words are power, so we should help the child to label the emotional experiences. When a loved one dies, children feel and show their grief in different ways. How kids cope with the loss depends on things like their age, how close they felt to the person who died, and the support they receive.

Adults often have concerns about how to help a child deal with the profound loss of death. Here are some important guidelines to consider:

  • Use simple, clear words when talking about death. To break the news that someone has died, approach your child in a caring way. Use words that are simple and direct. For example, "I have some sad news to tell you. Grandma died today." Pause to give your child a moment to take in what you have said.

  • Listen and comfort. Every child reacts differently to learning that a loved one has died. Some cry, some ask questions. Others seem not to react at all. Stay with your child to offer hugs and reassurance. Answer your child's questions or just be together for a few minutes.

  • Put emotions into words. Encourage kids to say what they're thinking and feeling. Talk about your own feelings: It helps kids be aware of and feel comfortable with theirs.

  • Tell your child what to expect. If the death of a loved one means changes in your child's life, head off any worries or fears by explaining what will happen. For example "I need to stay with Grandpa for a few days. But I'll talk to you every day, and I'll be back on Sunday."

  • Talk about funerals and rituals. Allow children to join in rituals like viewings, funerals, or memorial services. Tell your child ahead of time what will happen. For example, "Lots of people who loved Grandma will be there. People might cry and hug. People will say things like, 'I'm sorry for your loss,' or, 'My condolences.' Those are polite and kind things to say to the family at a funeral. We can say, 'Thank you,' or, 'Thanks for coming’.”

  • Explain what happens after the service as a way to show that people will feel better. For example, "We all will go eat food together. People will laugh, talk, and hug some more. Focusing on the happy memories about Grandma and on the good feeling of being together helps people start to feel better."

  • Give your child a role. Having a small, active role can help kids with an unfamiliar and emotional situation such as a funeral or memorial service. For example, you might invite your child to read a poem, gather some photos to display, or make something. Let kids decide if they want to take part, and how.

  • Help your child remember the person. In the days and weeks ahead, encourage your child to draw pictures or write down favorite stories of their loved one. Recalling and sharing happy memories helps heal grief and activate positive feelings.

  • Respond to emotions with comfort and reassurance. Notice if your child seems sad, worried, or upset in other ways. Ask about feelings and listen. Let your child know that it takes time to feel better after a loved one dies. Some kids may temporarily have trouble concentrating or sleeping or have fears or worries.

  • Help your child feel better. Provide the comfort your child needs, but don't dwell on sad feelings. After a few minutes of talking and listening, shift to an activity or topic that helps your child feel a little better. Play, make art, cook, or go somewhere together.

  • Give your child time to heal from the loss. Grief is a process that happens over time. Be sure to have ongoing conversations to see how your child is feeling and doing. Healing doesn't mean forgetting about the loved one. It means remembering the person with love, and letting loving memories stir good feelings that support us as we go on to enjoy life.

You can be assured as a full-time daycare , your child’s well-being, in both sad and happy times is of the utmost importance to T’s Learning Center. Together, we can successfully help your grieving child during a stressful time.