If you are a parent there is nothing harder than seeing your children experience grief and loss. You may feel hopeless in knowing how to help them. You want to just take away the pain. Seeing our children with grief and loss can be a struggle often because we may also be grieving at the same time.
How can we help our children with grief and loss?
Here are some things to focus on.
Encourage children to talk about their feelings
Grief can be confusing for young children. It may seem like things are not affecting them because they don’t openly come to you to talk about it. That may be because they don’t know how to. The feelings that they have may be hard for them to access because they have never experienced something like this before.
Go to your children and start a conversation. Help them to know it is okay and important to talk about their feelings whatever they are. When they do decide to open up, listen with empathy and create an environment where it is safe to talk about feelings.
Model appropriate show of emotions
As I mentioned earlier you likely will be grieving the same loss as the children. This can be a perfect opportunity to teach children that emotions are okay. Do not feel as though you have to hide your emotions or sadness from the children. You want to be aware of when you need your own emotional support and do not want to put that burden on the children, yet it is okay to show that you are sad. When kids see you showing emotion and having an appropriate response can help them learn how to manage their own feelings.
Teach them that life must continue
So many of us just want to hide in the dark when we are feeling grief. If you need to take a moment to do that of course go ahead. It is important to teach your children that even though we grieve. Life goes on. We can feel sad and learn how to manage that grief and overtime that grief will change. In the meantime we must continue to participate in life. We must find ways to adjust to life after loss and still thrive.
Be patient with the children and yourself
Grief is a funny thing. Just when you think your children are doing better there may be a setback. Remember that grief is not linear. It comes and goes and changes as time passes. When children deal with grief and loss you may see other behavioral changes as they process it all. Be patient with them and continue to work through it. Know that when you lose someone life never goes back to what it was before but it can still be hopeful and you and your children can thrive.