How to Help Children Cope with Loss
By Rose Marie Massaro
Whether you’re an adult or child, experiencing the loss of a loved one is extremely difficult. We’re filled with heartache, confusion and the sense of disruption in our lives. Children often rely on an adult to help them navigate the unfamiliar feelings and change. Having a compassionate and thoughtful adult by their side can help them through the process. Here are a few ways you can help a child cope with the loss of a loved one.
Be Honest: Answer questions honestly and in simple, age-appropriate language. Try not to use euphemisms like, “Grandma is sleeping.” This may cause confusion.
Don’t Hide Your Feelings: Children often look to adults on how to act in situations. This is not the time to hide your true feelings. It’s okay to share with your child that you are sad because you miss grandma. This helps the child validate his own feelings.
Keep Up the Daily Routine: Participating in school and extracurricular activities can help children feel a sense of normalcy during what can be a very unstable time. If the loss has an effect on your child’s routine, explain how efforts are being made to keep everything the same. For instance, let your child know that Aunt Jackie will pick him up from school the way grandma used to. Try to maintain regular routines with additional TLC during the day.
Share Memories: Teach your child that death does not mean we stop talking about the person who passed. Encourage your child to draw pictures or write favorite stories about their loved one so they won’t forget them. Sharing memories in their own personal way will help alleviate the grief.
Be Patient: Grief can be a longer process for a child. It may take a longer time for kids to open up and share their feelings. Check in with them. Their feelings may change over time, possibly starting with sadness, but turning to anger or denial. Be flexible and adjust to their individual needs.
Offer Options: Depending on their age, some children may benefit from outside help. You can offer a child the opportunity to talk to a counselor alone, or with you present. Younger children may benefit from creative therapy like drawing. Outdoor healing such as Pathways Children’s Healing Garden offers soothing sensory experiences through physical structures, sounds and smells of nature to bring relief to a grieving heart and mind.
For more information on Pathways grief and loss programs, visit here.