In many households with children, when something dies it is often in reference to a tablet that runs out of battery or a video game character that runs into a bottomless electronic pit. But how do we deal with the grief and loss of a loved one with children when the battery can not simply be charge up or the game restarted?
Young children may not always understand that when someone has passed on, we can no longer physically be with that person. They may not immediately understand that this loved one who had been a regular part of their life will no longer come to visit or make them their favorite meal. This realization may not always come immediately but over time they may ask questions. Showing emotions and the grief process is different for every body but may vary even more with children. If the person who had passed on was a part of their daily lives there will most certainly be more immediate reactions. If it is a family member who was seen mostly during holidays and family get together it may take longer to process the idea that the person is gone.
Everyone deals with grief differently and in different time frames. As a parent, allowing the child to ask questions and get honest answers is a great place to start. Acknowledge their feelings and let them feel them. Give children an outlet for the range of emotions they may have that is age appropriate such as drawing, cuddling with stuffed animals and play therapy.
Allowing children to say goodbye is an important part of the grieving process. Whether it is allowing them to attend the funeral or memorial service or writing a card or performing a special goodbye at home.
Often after loss, kids worry that someone else close to them or even themselves will die too. It is important to calm their fears and remind them of some ways that we can stay healthy including eating fruits and vegetables and getting plenty of sleep.
Find ways to remember the one who was lost. Talk about all the fun things yout did together. Compile pictures and moments into a memory book that will allow the children to connect with and remember their loved one even after they are gone. There are companies that will take an article of clothing and turn it into a stuffed animal that your child can cuddle with, and feel close to the one who has passed on.
When a child has experienced loss the parent is also grieving. It is important to take care of yourself as well. Expressing your own feelings of grief and treating your body kindly will be a great model for your children and allow for the healthiest beginning to healing.