The complexities of grieving can feel overwhelming for some adults, so it is completely understandable that grieving can be difficult for children as well. The way we sort out our thoughts and feelings, associated with loss, can set an example for our little ones and teens to follow. And, helping our children through their grief can, in turn, amazingly help us with grief. The key is to stay alert and sensitive to your child’s needs during this time of sorrow, which may continue for several days, weeks, months, and years. We would like to share some ideas to help your child, and you, through the grieving process.
1. Follow their lead.
When you are making funeral plans, make sure you take time to listen to your child’s words and body language. We recommend that you give your child options when it comes to ceremonial remembrance. If they do not feel comfortable going to the funeral, you do not need to force them to go. Perhaps visitation and the funeral would be too much, but the fellowship meal following the service may be doable. Listen to their thoughts, fears, and questions. Your love for your children, in allowing them to lead their personal grieving journey, can help them greatly in the days and years to come.
2. Be available.
Considering the many variables of personalities and backgrounds, each person has a unique response to loss. Your child may be talkative – but when loss occurs, suddenly they are quiet. Or, on the other hand, your child may be generally private – yet, the recent loss has them emotional and conversive.
Journaling can be helpful. You can together buy a journal and trade it back and forth, sharing thoughts, feelings, and memories. Sometimes conversations are easiest in the car when you are driving around and not staring at each other. Communication can happen in many different ways!
Above all, make it clear to your child, and remind them often, that you are always available if they want to talk, if they need company, or if they just want you to rub their back as they fall asleep. Being PRESENT is essential. Your child just lost someone they loved … they need to know that you are not going to leave them, too. Your loving presence and availability is priceless to your child.
3. Continue the legacy.
When we grieve and miss someone we love, it can help immensely when we choose to honor them by doing certain actions. What did your loved one care about? Did they volunteer to help the homeless? Did they spend time at the animal shelter? Perhaps they were famous for sending cards of encouragement through the mail. Continue their legacy by taking up their causes. Sit together as a family and remember what was important to your loved one. Brainstorm how you could honor their memory by helping others. When you contribute time and energy to these good causes, your family bonding will soothe the hurt of loss. And you will be happy knowing that your loved one would be thrilled to know that you are continuing their legacy.
4. Activities of remembrance.
One painful aspect of grieving is that many people, especially outside the family, stop talking about the one who died. They may act awkward around you and hesitate to discuss your loss. Remind yourself that people mean well and gently communicate that you want to talk about the memories you treasure. You can help your children by creating opportunities to tell people about their grandparents, aunt or uncle, or friend. Young ones can take pictures or items they were given by their loved one to school for show and tell. Together you can bake a pie to give to a neighbor with a card that says, “We baked this pie for you in memory of our Granny who was a blue-ribbon pie baker! We appreciate you and hope you have a wonderful day!” Take your loved one’s clothes and offer them to people in need. You can tell them, “My Dad loved this hat and always wore a smile. Now it’s your turn to enjoy wearing it.” Always encourage your children to talk about your loved one, when you are home alone together as a family and when you are out among friends.
Another special remembrance activity is to make keepsake gifts for your family. Some people enjoy making Christmas ornaments in memory of a loved one. If your loved one liked crazy neckties or funny t-shirts, consider making a quilt together, using these items. There are many resources online to buy remembrance gifts for those who aren’t crafty. And, Etsy is a wonderful place online to buy personalized gifts.
These are four simple, yet meaningful, ideas that we believe will help you help your child through the grieving process. Please check out our website for more helpful articles and always feel free to call us at 1-508-673-0781 if you have any questions.