October 9, 2013

Discussing Loss and Grief with a Child

After the death of a loved one, children will grieve. Grief is a normal reaction to loss and change. With encouragement, support and time, most children will successfully incorporate the changes that loss brings into their lives. As the parent, you may feel helpless, but talking about the loss with your child can help ease the grief.

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When talking to your child about grief, express your own feelings about the loss. Your child will understand that it is normal to feel sad because you, too, are sad. Assure your child that even such emotions as anger, fear and loss of faith are normal and that your child may safely express these feelings to you.

Discussing loss and death with a young child can be difficult, especially if you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Your child may ask questions such as, “Will grandpa ever move again?” Remember to remain calm and simply explain the truth to your child. Saying “Grandpa cannot move because his body does not work anymore,” will help your child understand that grandpa is no longer alive. Consider avoiding phrases such as “passed away” or “moved on” to a child. This can leave the child confused and he or she may have hope that the loved one will soon return.

Children grieve much differently than adults, and each child is different. No two children will grieve in the same way. Remember to be truthful, loving, accepting and consistent with your child in order to help him or her through the grief process.