It's one of the biggest, hardest things that can happen in a person's life, especially to a child. Children who experience a major loss in their lives may grieve differently than an adult. Learn empathic approaches to help a child cope with the loss of a loved one.
Whether it's a parent's death, sibling, extended family member, pet, or a close friend can be extremely difficult for a small child to process. It can also be a confusing experience with recent changes, limited understanding or an inability to express feelings can put a child in special disadvantage in regards to their social and emotional development. Coping with a child's grief can add additional strain to educators, parents and guardians with sudden outbursts will only deepen a child's anxiety or delay the grieving process. Instead, take time to guid the grieving child through honest conversation in the terms that a child can comprehend.
1. Help a Child Express Their Feelings
In an interview with Austin PBS Trevor Romain mentions, "The biggest problem is that adults tell children, "It's going to be okay." That doesn't help the kid feel better. That makes the adult feels better because they dealt with it. What we need to do is be an ear to the children to allow them to express their fears and feelings." Trevor also adds, "I think most of the time adults tell kids what we think we they need to hear instead of listening to what they are asking for." As a way to help a child express their feeling in a healthy manner, encourage them to express it in a creative form like a drawing or writing it down in a journal, and open the discussion for them to share it with you.
2. Be mindful of Special Occasions like birthdays, holidays, and death anniversaries
While some holidays and special occasions can be a joyous celebration, this can also trigger a sensitive psychological and emotional state to a child who loss a loved one. Whether it's a recent loss or it's been some time, the holidays can elevate feelings of sadness and depression to a child and/or their family. Not every child will experience grief in the same way, but every person will experience it at some point in our lives. Simply asking how a child is feeling can offer the right words of comfort during the holidays. A child will appreciate being seen, heard and valued.
3. Do Something to Honor the Deceased Person
Doing an activity to remember someone special who have died can also bring a valuable significance to a child. Maybe print out photos of the person and put them into a special album. Plant a tree or flower garden in their memory. Plan a get-together with family and friends, so collectively the child can remember memories with others. A child may want to make a monetary donation in honor of the person who died in their lives to a special organization the deceased person maybe affiliated or associated while they were alive.
4. Hold Memories Tight!
The child may have lost someone special in their lives, but something that will always be cherished...their memories. Ask the child to think about how the person meant to them and the fun times they shared together. There's one very important thing a child needs to know and it's that remembering can help the deceased person live on forever....in their heart and mind. Another idea is to place sentimental keepsake items in a special container like Trevor Romain's Memory Box to help remember the lost loved one.
5. Grief is a Journey!
Grief is an experience that every human being will encounter in their lives and a child will not feel 100% every day and it's important to validate their emotions on a regular basis.
"The place where I grow ideas and create stories using words, illustrations and photographs." - Trevor Romain