Here is another very helpful blog on helping your child process grief. Lu is always one of HomeWord’s favorites. She is so practical and a great communicator.
Helping Your Child Process Grief
When my kids were little we had a German shepherd named Tori. Tori had flunked out of seeing eye dog school. Maybe she didn’t make it to the big time but she was a wonderful family pet. The kids could pull, tug, and lay on her for naps and she did nothing but love them. Well, when Tori began having medical problems and began snipping at the kids, we knew it was time. I called the couple who we had gotten the dog from and she confirmed, it was time, along with our vet.
The pain in all of our hearts was almost unbearable. Tori was part of our family. We all loved her as much as anyone could love a pet. After she was gone, I remember sitting in the hallway of our home with my 5-year-old and 6-year-old and all three of us sobbed for what seemed like hours. I shared my grief and tears with my kids, and did my best to comfort them with their grief and tears, as I held them both.
At the time it was all I could do. As my children cried, I cried with them.
Sometimes when awful life things happen (like death, loss of a friendship, illness, losing a pet) we try to shield our kids from the pain of it. But is that really what will help them process life, process grief?
When life happens—sad life—how can we help our kids?
- Be honest and truthful. At an age-appropriate level tell your children the truth. They probably already know, kids are very observant and soak in more than we realize.
- Be clear with your communication. Don’t sugar coat what happened. If a loved one or pet has died, state it. Clearly.
- Allow them to mourn how they’d like to. Ask your child how you can support them and then, give them space to do what they ask.
- Let them know what’s coming. If there will be a funeral or celebration talk about what they can expect.
- Let them share their feelings. Ask how they are feeling and let them know it’s okay to cry.
- Share grief. It’s okay to grieve a loss with your child. Cry with them and allow yourself to feel and cry too. After all, we are human and we are modeling what “human” looks like.
- Say, I don’t know. As parents we often feel like we need to have all the answers, when in reality no one can have all the answers. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Give yourself that liberty.
I have a friend who has talked about the death of her dad. She and her family went to church regularly. She had heard a message about how Jesus raised the dead and she was convinced that Jesus would raise her father from the dead. At his funeral as he laid in his coffin this little girl waited for Jesus’s miracle. “Get up, Daddy, get up.” She didn’t understand why Jesus had not answered her prayer. She didn’t understand why her dad did not “come back” to her.
When we don’t help children process the tough stuff in their lives they will find a way to make sense of the “tough stuff.”
If you are honest, communicate clearly, mourn with them, and guide them along grief’s path you are helping your child walk through grief, get to the other side, and to then be able to thrive.
This article first appeared here.