Sunday, October 30, 2011

How do you help your child handle loss?

Grief is a hard enough emotion when you are grown up.  How do you help your child handle loss?   The loss of a family member , a friend, a  pet?  Children are bound to lose something along the way that they truly do love and will grieve.

I really had a hard time watching my children go through the loss of my Papa this past week.  My daughter took it particularly hard.  (15 years old).  Their pain only increased my own. 

 I talked to them all about Papa, and I emphasized that he would not want them to be sad one day he would want them to live their lives and be very happy.   We didn't cancel their daily activities or make them stay home from school.  We allowed them to choose , if they felt that they needed to stay home they were allowed but if they wanted to stay busy and keep up with their day to day that was fine too.  We weren't picky over what they did or how they grieved.  We just allowed them to do so in their own way and time.   That worked for us.  Each of them were very different in how they felt, how they handled their emotions and what they wanted to share.  That was OK we are each our own person. 

The service~ I know some people feel like children and adults need to go to the funeral or service to have closure and out of respect.  I don't feel that way at all.  I think that children should be able to hold on to their happy memories for as long as possible.  Not a lot of sadness and tears.  Lord knows they will experience enough of that as adults.  We again gave our children the choice .  We explained what would take place during the service, that it would be sad and we told them we did not want them to choose what was best for someone else or worry about anyone Else's feelings .  We wanted them to do what was best for them.  And they did. 

Of course my youngest did not get such choices(2 .5 years old) he would never sit through the service so he was left with a sitter.  There were two toddlers there though that did great.  I think as parents we know our children and what they can and can't handle to.  It's important to remember that when dealing with a hard situation and not expect to much of them. 

Tips to help a Grieving Child (I found these helpful)
  • Reassure them that the emotions they are feeling are valid and normal. Conversations about their feelings and emotions should remain ongoing
  • Answer their questions honestly and age appropriately
  • Share your own feelings and sadness with them
  • Share funeral /memorial preparations and let them participate as much as they choose this should not be forced
Please remember if you have a child dealing with loss ~ children grieve just as intensely as an adult does.  They just may not yet have the coping skills or the language to express how they are feeling.