Every loss is different. But whether it’s sudden or expected, peaceful or turbulent, an acquaintance or a close relative, all losses have something in common: there’s always more to say.

For a child or teen, not being able to communicate their thoughts and feelings directly to the person they lost can be frustrating. In addition, depending on the child’s age and their previous experience with death, the idea of someone being “gone” may be frightening or confusing.

Helping a child find ways to remain connected to their loved one can be an invaluable therapeutic tool. The death of a special person does not truly end a child’s relationship with that person, but it can take time to discover a different way to stay connected and build a new relationship.

At Kids Path, we recommend following your child’s lead and respecting their own unique way of grieving.  Following are ways that some families might choose to recognize and celebrate a child’s ongoing connection with someone who has died.

  • Invite your child to participate in creating a photo album or digital collage of special photos. Your child may also request to have a special photo placed in their bedroom where it can be a comfort when falling asleep.
  • Make a book of stories and drawings about happy memories.
  • Create a memory box for special items.
  • Write letters to the person. It’s best for adults to explain honestly that there may not be a physical way to deliver the message to that person, and ask for the child’s suggestions about what should happen to the letters.
  • Help your child start a private journal addressed to the person, where they can write entries to their loved one.
  • Begin a new family ritual, such as lighting a candle at the dinner table that represents the family’s ongoing connection with the person who died. For young children, explain that even though we will blow out the real candle, our love for the person still continues in our hearts.
  • Invite your child to enjoy the loved one’s favorite music or movie together.
  • For upcoming special occasions such as holidays or your special person’s birthday, talk with your child or teen about how they would like to remember the person that day. Some families choose to keep one special aspect of a celebration the same while also adding a new tradition into the mix.
  • Talk with your faith leader about how to answer your child’s spiritual questions.

For guidance in supporting a specific child through grief, contact Kids Path at 336.544.5437.