And other thoughts on helping your children through grief with Lynn Allen, LBSW.
When the loss of a significant loved one in a family takes place, it can feel nearly impossible to see past the frayed edges of your own grief.
Not only do adults have to manage and maintain their daily lives while working through deep sadness or depression of their own, they must also be present and responsible in helping children navigate through their own grief as well.
Hospice & Palliative Care of the Piedmont Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker, Lynn Allen, has spent the last several years helping children of all ages cope with the loss of a loved one. Here are a few ways you can guide your children through the grief process.
Be honest about how you’re feeling
Children are incredibly perceptive. Through battling their own grief, they may sense they can’t talk openly about their feelings in fear that it will make others in their home upset. It’s important for them to witness and learn that it’s okay to cry.
Be open and honest about how you’re dealing with the loss. It may give the children in your life the permission they need to open up about their own feelings.
Encourage your children to talk, write in a journal, write a letter or even draw a picture of their loved one as a healthy way to begin to work through their grief.
Avoid speaking words that may frighten or confuse children
Words or platitudes that are often spoken by those outside of deep grief can have a damaging impact on the mind of a child. Avoid saying things like, “God took them,” when speaking about death. They may begin to fear that God will take them, too.
Remind them that it’s no one’s fault when someone dies and that it’s no one’s fault. Make sure they understand the difference between illnesses that are common (like colds or flu) and those that are terminal; they may begin to associate getting sick with a more serious situation.
Keep an eye out for disruptive behavior
Common reactions of grief may look like anxiety, questioning or regression. A child may begin to suck their thumb again, or reach for a comfort item they no longer needed before experiencing significant loss.
However, if your child is having trouble sleeping, experiencing nightmares, having physical reactions such as headaches or showing disruptive behavior, it may be time to consider seeking professional counsel.
Be open to help from others
Walking through grief is a challenge on its own, but being responsible for the outcome of grief for a child is another load entirely. Seek help and guidance from a trust family member, a friend or a neighbor. Lean on the support of others if you need a break or time away to reset and gain a healthy perspective.
Consider a grief support group of your own, or enrolling your child in a grief camp through Hospice & Palliative Care of the Piedmont.