How to help a child navigate grief

Posted on October 15, 2015

Funeral services in Manchester NH from GoodwinThe grieving process comes to everyone at some point and everyone handles it in a personal way. Lost in the shuffle, sometimes, are the children who have, also, suffered a loss. Sometimes their grief is invisible to adults but the simple fact remains that one in twenty children will lose a parent to death.

  • Children can feel the loss of a loved one just as strongly, if not more strongly, than an adult. Do not diminish the loss to the child or tell them that “everything will be just fine” because it won’t be just fine. Don’t diminish or dismiss their feelings. No one, including children, ever “get over” a significant loss. Everyone simply tries to do the best they can to live with it.
  • Children generally grieve in a deep and profound way for great stretches of time. After so long, however, they tend to seek relief by taking a momentary break from their grieving process. Often, children will use play, or music, or dance as an outlet for relief and an opportunity to rest. Adults can mistake this for the child no longer feeling grief. This, again, is a mistake as play and creativity represents an opportunity for the child to work with their grief in an effort to understand it.
  • Grief will always be with a child especially as they age and grow into young adults. As they enter different stages of their childhood development and come to understand things more, they will begin to intensely feel the loss of their parent, grandparent, or loved one. They will realize what is missing from this particular stage in their life.
  • Often, children are kept away from funeral services and this can be a mistake. Help the child to understand the funeral process and what it will entail and then offer them opportunity to either attend or not. They, like you, may want a final opportunity to say goodbye to their loved one.
  • Help them to understand their loss as best you can. Answer their questions truthfully and if you don’t know an answer, say so. Children will know when you are lying or telling them some empty platitude. Sometimes, there simply are no answers.
  • Death and grief can be hard on anyone, especially children. Help them to understand that death comes to everyone. Help them to understand that it is alright to feel angry and sad. Help them to understand themselves and what they are feeling and, above all, let them know how much they are loved.