Grief is an integral part of the human experience, and as much as parents may want to shield their children from loss and pain, there will come a time when they will need to help their child navigate this moment.
Children and teenagers just like adults, experience and express grief in a lot of different ways. Sometimes the expression might not be so clearly connected to their grief. For instance, some children might experience physical discomforts like headaches or stomach aches. They may start to become anxious regarding certain activities at schools, or they might refuse to talk about their feelings altogether.
It is perfectly normal for your child to experience grief in different ways, and you might notice a significant difference the same event will trigger amongst your children. When grief presents itself, it’s essential to know how you can help your child deal with it.
Ways You Can Help Your Child Deal with Grief
- Encourage your child to talk about their feelings
Expressing emotions is essentially a way your child can make sense of what happened, process it, and even heal.
Some children will have little difficulty verbalizing how they feel, so you can create the space for them to do so. Let them know you’re there to talk and that you will listen. Allow them to express their emotions without interrupting or correcting them, as that can discourage them from talking freely.
If your child is too young to verbalize their emotions or isn’t ready to talk, you might want to try other activities that can serve as an emotional outlet, such as drawing or telling stories.
- Be reassuring
When your child loses someone close to them, they don’t simply experience grief like other adults. In a way, their entire sense of safety can be disrupted, and they can have a difficult time understanding what happened, why it happened, and what it all means for them.
Reassure your child that you are there for them and that they are loved. After the death of a relative, children can become increasingly worried that other people in their life might also die, so you might have to address this concern as well.
- Acknowledge your child’s grief
Sometimes, the most important thing your child needs to understand is that you know they are grieving, and you understand them.
Acknowledge that your child is grieving and give them the space to express it based on what feels intuitive for them, and not what you think they should do.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
On a plane, you’re told to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then your child. You cannot care for a child if you completely ignore your wellbeing.
Remember that you are also experiencing a loss. Though you might be more worried about how your child processes this event, remember to allow yourself the space to grieve too and take care of your needs.
Additionally, children will often mimic their parent’s behavior, so if they see you avoiding your grief and emotions, they will likely do the same. Show your child it is perfectly fine to feel sad and to experience these feelings.
Bayless Is Here to Help
Are you or a loved one grieving from the loss of a loved one? We are here to listen.
The Bayless team of counselors and therapists will help you and your family navigate your loss and find ways to cope.
Contact us today for more information about our services.