Even for fully grown adults, the loss of a loved one is a hard emotional hit. You can only imagine how harder it is for children to accept this. Most of the time, they are not yet able to grasp the realities of life. The matters surrounding natural processes such as death are alien concepts, especially if this is the first time this has happened. Children understand death differently depending on their age. If you are grieving a family member’s death, give special attention to your children. This phase is challenging for them. Without an established open line of communication at home, this will be even harder for parents and their children. Even your ways of processing grief will affect them.
Here are ways you can help your child deal with and process their grief:
Talk to Them About It
The whole thing will be easier to process for a child if healthy communication is in the family. Have some quiet time with your kid when you get the chance to. Ask them how they are feeling.
How you explain things to your kid will depend on their age and their ability to understand. Sometimes you don’t have to lie to children about what led to the loved one’s death.
If you have a school-aged child, they can pretty much understand that death is final, that they won’t be able to see that person anymore. Give them an honest explanation of what happened and ask them later on if they understand. Most of the time, they do. However, they still need reassurance about their family’s well-being. Ensure them that everybody else is healthy.
You will need a different approach for younger children. Usually, they only see death in the cartoons that they watch. The end of cartoon characters is usually temporary, and they just spring back up to life. You have to gently explain to them that it’s not how life works in the real world. Give them comforting words like that the memories of their loved ones will stay even though you can’t be with them anymore physically.
Help Them Identify Their Emotions
Encourage your kid to be open and honest. Provide security and comfort. Make them feel that they are free to cry or ask questions any time.
Sometimes, children don’t immediately show signs of grieving. Mostly, it’s due to the fact that they really don’t get what is going on. After explaining to them what happened, ask them how they feel. They might be feeling things for the first time. Help them identify whether it is sadness or confusion that they are feeling. Tell them you feel sad or confused, too, so they won’t feel like they are alone.
If they won’t talk, at least be there for them physically. Cuddle with your children or give them long hugs because being alone can make them feel more vulnerable.
Keep Them Busy
Help your child come to terms with the finality of the family member’s death. You can ask them to collect their favorite memories. Make them compile pictures to put in a memory book. If they like writing, you can ask them to write a poem or a letter. You can also make a memory bracelet or necklace. These activities can also be a way for them to say goodbye to the deceased family member.
Reading books can help them understand the situation better. Some books tell stories about grief. Relating to the characters or events in a fictional world can make them feel like they are not alone.
If your kid finds it difficult to verbalize their feelings, encourage them to write in a journal. Tell them no one will read what they wrote, so they are free to say everything they want to.
Help Yourself Too
If you yourself are having a hard time processing your emotions, you can’t really help your child that much. However, there are people who can help you. Consider having grief counseling sessions for the whole family.
If your feelings of grief remain unaddressed, it can hinder your everyday living. Counseling can help you through the healing process until you get to the final stage of grief—acceptance.
Grief affects people in different ways. It is essential to understand that these feelings are natural and valid. As loving parents, you should give innocent children the chance to process these emotions as well. Their hurt and suffering may not show, but they feel it. Make sure to be with your child every step of the way.