The loss of a loved one is something that we all must face at some point in life. For many of us, that first glimpse of mortality happens when we are but children. Whether it be the loss of a grandparent, a favorite aunt, a parent or a sibling, it can be difficult for a parent to understand how to help a child cope with grief, especially if you are also struggling.
While the grieving process will look different for every child, there are a few universal ideas that can help all children to heal.
Read on for some helpful tips from the team at Salus Hospice of Salt Lake City.
Gentle but Honest Conversations about Death
It’s not easy to tell a child that a loved one has died. To make this task as easy as possible, find a quiet moment to share the news. Give yourself and your child time to talk about it if that’s what they want to do. Also give them space if they’re not immediately ready to dig into their feelings just yet. Make sure any conversation happens in a place where the child feels safe, if possible. If your loved one is in hospice care and you have time to prepare your child before the death, talk to her honestly about what’s going on and what lies ahead. This can help you child to feel more prepared, and while it won’t shield them from pain and sadness, it can ultimately make the death easier to accept.
Talking About Grief
While you’re having conversations with your child, encourage her to share any feelings about the loss. Let your child know that it’s okay to be honest, even if some of the things that are said sound mean, angry or negative. Share your feelings too, even if that means letting your child know that you are struggling. This type of honesty can help with the grieving process and bring to light the idea that there’s never a right or wrong way to “feel” about the loss of a loved one. Also keep in mind that this level of openness isn’t always comfortable. If necessary, limit the length of each conversation or take a break if things start to feel too difficult or uncomfortable.
Moving on after a Loss
After the loss, one of the most important things you can do for your child is to help them understand that life continues and there’s so much value in recognizing when the time is right to move on. Taking your child to the funeral can help with this step as it offers a sense of closure for some children. If your loved one was in hospice care, it’s also a good idea to schedule some time for grief counseling when your child is ready. Taking advantage of community resources like The Sharing Place can also help. Their mission is to provide a safe and caring environment for grieving children, teens and their families to share feelings while healing themselves. The organization provides support groups organized by age and situation, allowing children to receive assistance that best meets their individual needs.
Losing a loved one is never easy, and if you’re watching your child go through this process, it may be one of the most difficult times in your life. The most important thing you can do is to let your child know that you are there for them. Show patience and give them space, but don’t be afraid to be honest about how you’re feeling too. Finally, remember that community support is valuable throughout this journey. The pain you and your child are all feeling will eventually fade, but the memories of your loved one will live on in a special place inside your heart.