Losing a family member is one of the most difficult experiences a child can go through. It may be hard for them to process their feelings and understand the situation. While it’s natural for children to feel confused, sad, and even angry after such a loss, there are things you can do to help them cope. Coping will look different for each child, and it’s important to be patient and understanding during this process. Here are a few ideas to help children cope with the loss of a family member
Explain the Loss
Depending on their age and understanding, explain what has happened in an age-appropriate way. Let them know it is okay to feel sad or scared and that you are there to support them through these difficult emotions. If the child loses someone close to them, it’s important to allow them to express their grief without judgment. As a parent or guardian, you are responsible for providing them with an understanding atmosphere. Do not attempt to lie about the death or ignore the situation. This may lead to more confusion and distress.
Validate Their Feelings
Make sure your child knows it is okay to feel whatever emotions arise after losing a family member. Even if you don’t understand their feelings or think they are irrational, make sure to listen and validate their emotions. Showing empathy and understanding can help them feel supported and less alone in their grief. Just because they are children does not mean they don’t feel a range of emotions after a major loss. If they come to you with questions, answer them honestly. It is important to be honest with your children as they process their grief and understand the implications of death.
Provide a Comforting Outlet
Encourage your child to express themselves healthily, whether talking about it or exploring creative outlets, such as drawing or music. Try to keep some routines and activities in place, as this can provide security during a difficult time. You can also comfort them by being affectionate and providing them with comforting items like stuffed animals or blankets. Lastly, if your child has difficulty sleeping due to grief, ensure they are in a comfortable sleeping environment and feel secure before bedtime.
Seek Professional Help
If your child is having difficulty coping with the loss of a family member, and you can’t provide the support they need, consider grief and bereavement counseling. Professional grief counselors can provide a safe space for your child to express their emotions without fear of judgment and give them tools to help them heal. Counseling might be especially helpful if the loss was sudden or unexpected, as it can help children process traumatic events and move forward healthily.
Encourage Them to Talk About Their Feelings
It’s important to provide children with an outlet to express their feelings. Encourage them to talk about their loved ones, share memories, and tell you how they feel. You can also help them by normalizing their feelings—let them know that it’s okay to feel sad, scared, or angry and that these feelings are all a part of grieving. You can also create rituals to help them feel connected to the person they lost, such as looking at photos, writing letters, or even creating a memorial.
Help Them Create a Memory Box
One way to help children hold onto memories of their loved one is by helping them create a memory box. This can be as simple as a shoe box decorated with photos and mementos. Anything that reminds them of the lost person can go in the box—letters, cards, jewelry, favorite foods, etc. Encourage them to add to the box whenever they want and refer back to it when they’re feeling sad or missing their loved one.
Do Something Nice in Memory of Their Loved One
Do something nice in memory of the person they’ve lost. This could be anything from planting a tree in their honor to donating to their favorite charity. Doing something thoughtful in memory of their loved one will help a child feel closer. This will also help others who may be going through similar experiences.
Help Your Child to Move Forward
While it is normal to process grief due to loss, it is also important to help your child move forward. Encourage them to participate in activities they enjoy, make new friends, and set goals for themselves. This can help them feel empowered and rebuild confidence after a major loss. Above all, being patient and understanding with your child as they process their grief is important. Allow them the time and space to heal and work through their feelings.
It’s important to remember that healing from loss takes time, so have patience and provide your child with the love and support they need during this difficult time. Children can healthily process their grief with understanding, compassion, and support. It may take some trial and error as you figure out what helps your child cope with their emotions. With the right guidance, they can endure this tough time and continue living a happy and healthy life.