Helping children grieve, can be particularly hard as it depends on their maturity level and their relationship with the lost one. Even though they may be aware of demise, a child may not fully understand it. Their reactions and the grieving process is also very different from adults. They may be crying one moment and happily playing the next. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that their grief is over.
Here are a few suggestions from The Last Journey on how to help children deal with grief.
- Be honest and give out age-appropriate information.
It is ideal to discuss the situation in an honest, direct, and age-appropriate manner. Be clear by using words such as “died” instead of “went to sleep” as it may pose a difficulty later. Don’t try and avoid the conversation. It will be much better if they hear the truth from a loved one.
2. Encourage them to express.
The next step is to encourage the child to speak. Try to understand their side of the story and what they have understood of the situation. Encourage them to share their feelings with you. If they ask any questions, do your best to answer them, it will help them feel heard. If they aren’t able to express through words, you can use creative outlets such as drawings or stories.
3. Acknowledge their grief.
It can be tricky to understand how a child may grieve. They may feel varied emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, and frustration. Their way of releasing emotions can be different than what we might expect. What we can do on our part is to constantly keep checking. Spend time and do activities such as playing and coloring, this will help you get cues regarding their emotional state, and then you move forward with further actions.
4. Share your religious beliefs.
You can choose this time to talk to the child about your religious and spiritual beliefs. It will help create a feeling of hope and faith. You can also come up with new ways to allow the child to accept and to honor the life of the lost one. Lighting a candle, sharing life stories, and volunteering with charities are a few of those ways.
5. Be Patient.
You have to be patient with yourself as well as with the child. Grieving has no timetable and can range from days to even years. What’s important is to support the child constantly and talk to them about it. Try to make a routine for the child as it will help them feel more normal and comfortable.