If you need parenting advice about helping your child deal with grief, stay right here. Our guest blogger, Carolyn Healy, is both a therapist and a writer. Let's learn from her wisdom in her article, Helping Your Child Grieve.
"Some basics of helping children to grieve are well-understood:
Let them see you cry, and tell them that it is normal.
It gives them permission to express emotion when they need to. And it lets them know that they don’t need to hold theirs in to help you.
Communicate clear and realistic messages.
“Grandma died.” “Her body stopped working.” “It cannot be fixed.”
Avoid confusing statements like “She’s gone away,” or “She’s sleeping,” or “She’s gone on a trip far away.” Children are concrete thinkers and will misunderstand those references.
Watch how you portray God.
Instead of implicating God in the disappearance of a loved one, as in “God needed her so he called her home,” promote him as a source of comfort and help, if you so believe.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your child, and encourage him to do the same.
Find out what your child knows about death, and about the terms you are using to explain the death.
Your conversations may need to be repeated again and again as your child grows in understanding. You may still be talking about this periodically for years, as kids need to reprocess their grief as they move through developmental stages.
Others are less well-known:
Kids are masters of intermittent grieving.
They may seem in the depths one minute, and then ready to dash out to play the next. It is as if they have a circuit breaker that saves them from overload. Be assured that this is normal.
Kids will often believe that they are responsible for the death of a loved one.
Since they naturally believe that they are the center of the universe, they overestimate their power, and their responsibility. They can imagine that anything they did wrong could be the reason for a loved one’s death.
Grief is not one-size-fits-all. For children as well as adults, there are wide ranges of emotion, as well as different styles of grieving.
Everyone has an individual grief footprint. Avoid imposing outside constructs like stages of grief or expectations about timing. Expect siblings to grieve differently from each other.
It is important to involve children in story-telling about the deceased, and in rituals of remembrance.
But judge carefully how and when to carry this out. There is no rule about whether a child should attend a wake or funeral. Let other rituals emerge over time.
Let's applaud Carolyn Healey for her deep knowledge and excellent advice about childhood grieving.
Please connect with Carolyn at Waves of Grief Read her 10 secrets of grieving on her website. So helpful!
Parents, it's your turn to take the microphone:
What are your opinions about this blog post or your suggestions for helping your child grieve? Please answer in the comment link below.
With warm wishes,
Jean Tracy, MSS
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