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Helping Children Grieve

Published: June 21, 2017

Helping Children Grieve

Losing a loved one is never easy for anyone, especially children.  It is important that although you may be grieving yourself, take the time when it comes to speaking to a child about their loss.  Children can grieve in many different ways so it is important to try and understand what they are going through. 

Keep it Simple

If you have a loved one who has passed away and you need to tell a child, keep it simple!  You will want to use words the child can understand without going into great detail.  Be straightforward yet gentle.  Explain that you have sad news to tell them and proceed to give them the news that your loved one has passed on. 

Listen

Once you have told the child about the passing, listen to them.  Let them ask questions and answer them as honestly as you can.  Some children will have a lot of questions while others may not have any.

Discuss Feelings

Children can go through different stages of grief just like any of us.  Talk about their feelings and let them know they aren’t alone and share your feelings with them as well.  Encourage the child to be open with their emotions, let them know it’s okay to cry and be sad or scared.  Offer support and make them feel comfortable about talking to you.

Talk about the Funeral

You are going to want to give the child some time to process what has happened, but it is important to prepare them for the arrangements that have been made.  If you are having a funeral with visitation, explain exactly what goes on during the funeral and visitations.  Help the child understand that people may be sad and be crying or be laughing at memories of your departed.  Ask the child how they feel about this and give them the option of being involved in all aspects or maybe just some.  It’s an overwhelming time for everyone so you don’t want to add more pressure to the child. 

Make them feel special

A good way to help a child deal with their loss is to get them involved somehow.  This isn’t something that should be forced, so ask if there is something special they would like to do or be done.  You could suggest that they help collect and decide on pictures for a poster board, possibly they would like to say a poem or reading or even let them pick out their own special floral arrangement.  Even if it’s a small gesture like drawing a picture that can be put up during the service, let them decide and encourage and support their decision.

As adults, we know that losing someone special is never easy and that even though time will pass and healing will begin, it should always be encouraged and conveyed to children that sharing memories or discussing the loss is important.  There are many different options available should you need to reach out for help such as grief counselling. If you need information on grief counselling, you can find it at this website: https://www.ontario.ca/faq/where-can-i-find-programs-help-grief-and-loss 

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