Grief is a heavy emotion to deal with, especially for children, who often feel a mixture of confusion and sadness associated with loss. In these situations, children often react differently than adults when experiencing grief. Without proper guidance or comfort, it can be extremely difficult for children to properly understand.
Children should be allowed to react to and deal with grief in their own way. This means they may express confusion through a variety of emotions, such as anger or sadness. Their behaviors can also be very telling of how they’re handling loss. For example, children will sometimes act out at school or at home, or they may do the opposite and retract from activities they normally participate in.
This is normal for children when dealing with grief at first, but parents should keep a close eye on their children to ensure this behavior or these emotions aren’t continuously emitted. In these cases, some children who continue to display these behaviors, such as refusing to participate in activities they normally wouldn’t miss or display anger at school, may need guidance from outside counseling to properly deal with the heavy after-effects of grief and loss.
During this difficult time, it’s important you talk to your child about loss. Encouraging them to share what they’re feeling or inspire them to seek out activities that may help. They might ask a lot of questions and it’s important to answer their questions honestly and explain them in terms that help them understand what they’re feeling.
5 tips for parents to teach children about loss and how to handle grief
- Encourage your child to share what they’re feeling and to show their feelings
- Cherish the good memories
- Participate in mood-lifting ideas or activities
- Stick to routines to keep your child’s life as normal as possible
- Encourage your kids to speak to someone – a parent, a teacher, a counselor, a friend
When experience loss of a friend, loved one, or even a family pet, closure doesn’t have to happen at the funeral. Attending a funeral is a personal choice for children, as some might feel too scared or sad to attend. There are several other activities for parents and children to participate in together to provide closure and help cherish their memories.
Activities for parents to do with children after loss
- Create a memory box, a photo journal or scrapbook that you can both create together
- Visit the cemetery where a friend or loved one is buried
- Stay active – visit a park or walk your dog
- Plant a tree or a flower garden
- Release balloons
With a storm of emotions, grief is not an easy concept for children to manage. Parents should answer any questions they may have about loss and encourage children to show their feelings. This makes it more manageable for parents to know how their child is handling grief. To further understand the thoughts that may be entering your child’s mind when loss is so sudden and hard to grasp, take a look at our video, What on Earth to Do When Someone Dies. The video is also a great resource for kids experiencing grief and loss.