Ways to Help Children Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

By: Melissa Descant
Thursday, July 18, 2019

When a loved one dies, a child can show and feel their grief and sadness in various ways. How a child copes with the loss depends on many different factors such as their age, the support they receive, and how they felt about their loved one. The following are some ways parents/legal guardians can help a child move forward after the death of a loved one. 

Use Clear and Simple Words When Discussing Death 

Always break the news of a loved one’s death in a caring way. Use simple and direct words. Pause to let them understand your words. Pausing also gives a child a chance to ask questions and feel emotions.

It’s also important to listen and comfort them after breaking the news to them. Each child will react differently to hearing a loved one has passed. A child may cry, ask questions, or be silent, or they may not react at all. Regardless of how they react, stay with your child. Comfort them. Listen to them and offer reassurance. 

Help a Child Put Their Emotions into Words 

Encourage your child to say what they feel and think in the days, weeks and months after a loved one’s death. Children are similar to adults. They may say negative or positive things while grieving. That’s why it is important to discuss their feelings. It helps a child stay aware of their feelings and not ignore them. Writing obituaries can help a child express their feelings about the passing of a loved one. This is a great idea if they are having a hard time communicating what they feel regarding their loss. 

Give Your Child a Minor, Active Role in the Funeral 

Every passing of a loved one creates a different batch of emotions for a child. Sometimes a child can take the passing of a loved one in stride. Another child may have trouble moving forward after the loss. It’s helpful to give your child a role in the funeral to help them resolve their emotions. For example, let them pick the funeral flowers, read a poem, or pick a song that should be played at the service. 

Explain to Your Child What to Expect at a Funeral 

A child may not understand what the death of a loved one means. This can cause worry or fear that could last their entire lifetime. For example, funeral homes can be a scary place for a child if they don’t know what to expect. One way to squash the fears and worry is to explain what will happen during the service. It will provide comfort to a child because they will know what to expect. 

You may also want to explain funeral terms they may not understand such as cremation or burial. You also may want to explain when and why they will see their loved one in a casket. In addition, explain what happens after a funeral such as gathering together at someone’s how to eat and remember their loved one. 

Help Your Child Remember Their Loved One 

In the days, weeks, and months ahead, help your child remember their loved one. This should be done at the child’s pace. This means you should encourage, but not force your child to remember the loved one. Encourage them to draw pictures, write a poem, or recall happy members about their loved one. 

You Should Help Your Child Feel Better about Moving Forward After the Loss of a Loved One 

Helping a child grieve the loss of a loved one is never easy. You may be grieving the loss of your loved one yourself. However, it’s important to remember your child is coping just like you with your loved one’s death. It’s always better to help your child feel better by proving the comfort your child needs. 

Don’t dwell on negative or sad feelings. When your child is sad, listen, and comfort them. After a few minutes of focusing on the sad or negative feelings, shift to a topic or activity that helps them feel better. Cook your loved one’s favorite meal, go to the playground, draw with them, or go to the movies. It’s important that a child is able to shift away from sad feelings. They should know it is OK to be sad, but it is also OK to live their life. 

Coping with the sadness of the death of a loved one is an ongoing event. Be prepared to go through one or more of the steps listed above as your child goes through the grieving process. It’s vital to a child’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being

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