Grieving After The Loss Of A Loved One: How To Help A Child

Friday, January 4, 2019





Grieving After The Loss Of A Loved One: How To Help A Child

Losing a loved one can be incredibly hard for the entire family; the grieving process can bring along sadness, depression, stress, and anxiety, and it can be difficult to know how to cope with it all while facing the loss itself. For children, the process is magnified because they aren’t equipped to handle such a big, upsetting change. They may go through various stages of emotions, such as anger, sadness, and denial; they may push those feelings away and not show any emotion at all.

The important thing to remember is that although many kids are resilient, it’s imperative to make sure they feel loved and safe after the loss of a family member or close friend. Being unable to cope with the swirl of emotions they’re feeling means they’re also probably scared, and it may bring up thoughts of their own mortality, or of yours. Reassure your child that they are safe and that you’ll work through this hard time together. 

Here are a few of the best ways to get through it ...


You’re feeling your own emotions about the loss, and it may be hard for you to see outside of that at first. Remember that children show grief very differently than adults do; some look to their 

parents to see how to react, while others are confused at what they’re feeling and turn to a distraction, such as playtime, to avoid having to deal with it. Don’t expect your child to act a particular way after losing a loved one; there is no one right way to grieve. Be patient and let him know you’re there if he has questions or wants to talk. Some children regress slightly when faced with a significant loss and begin to wet the bed or suck their thumb. This can be upsetting, but it’s important not to discipline your child over these actions. Instead, ask if there’s something you can do to help him find comfort, such as installing a night light or pulling out an old beloved stuffed animal from the toy box.


Because children of different ages come to an understanding of death at various times, it’s difficult to know how much information to give or when. Don’t overwhelm them; let them come to you, and be as open as possible about answering questions. It might be a good idea to head to the library and look up some age-appropriate books about loss and sadness so you can read them together.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your child doesn’t feel a sense of guilt over the death. It may seem outlandish to you, but according to Neptune Society, it’s easy for them to flash to an angry memory where they shouted an angry thought or “wish,” and come to the conclusion that they have actually caused the condition. Talk about how your loved one’s death was no one’s fault, and stress the idea that no one feels the need to blame anyone else.


Many parents feel the need to withhold their emotions in front of their children and put on a “strong face” rather than expressing their grief in a healthy way. In the long run, it’s better if you’re open--to an appropriate degree--about how you’re feeling so that your child can learn by example. Seeing that you’re talking about your loss and the sadness you’re going through will help him understand his own grief.

Remember to take care of yourself during this time, as well; many people get so wrapped up in looking after their family members during a period of grief that they forget to make their health and well-being a priority. Talk to a counselor or therapist if you need help sorting out your feelings, and urge your family members to do so as well.

Guest Article by Home Educator ... Jenny Wise

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