Losing a parent feels insurmountable at any age. Our series helps you face it ― from the practical logistics to the existential questions about death and dying today.
No matter how old you are, the death of a family member can bring up a range of difficult and often overwhelming emotions: shock, deep sadness, confusion, anxiousness and anger, just to name a few.
For bereaved children dealing with the loss of an important figure like a parent, these intense feelings can be particularly hard to process. Kids need their surviving parent, caregivers or the other trusted adults in their lives to help them navigate the murky waters of grief.
We asked grief therapists and counselors to share what a parent can do to lovingly support a young child after the other parent has died.
How To Talk About The Death With Your Child
Death is a challenging subject to discuss with anyone, let alone a child. But sugarcoating it or avoiding the topic as a way to protect your kid can do more harm than good, experts say. Here’s how to handle it:
Language matters, so be aware of the words you choose.
Avoid the urge, however well-intentioned, to use euphemisms to explain the death. You may think telling your kid, “We lost Mommy” or “Daddy is sleeping” will soften the blow, but this approach can be confusing to children, who tend to take things literally.
“I can recall a teen recounting to me how her family handled a significant death years before. There was a period in time that she was scared to go to sleep when she was young, because a part of her feared that what if she, too, never woke up,” said Kate Zera Kray, a social worker and psychotherapist who specializes in grief.
Instead, stick to simple and direct language. Don’t be afraid to use words like “died” and “killed,” even if they seem harsh.
With younger kids, you can also say something like, “Daddy’s heart stopped beating,” and emphasize how we need our hearts to work in order to stay alive, said Judy Schiffman, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the Barr-Harris Children’s Grief Center.
Be honest about the nature of the death while taking your child’s age into account.
You want to be as straightforward as possible about how their parent died, but only to a degree that’s appropriate for your child’s age and developmental stage. Going into too much detail can overwhelm a younger mind, so keep your explanations truthful but brief.
“Hiding the truth can cause mistrust later as children learn more about the death,” said Ellen Roese, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in grief.
Note that younger kids — like those in the 3-to 5-year-old range — may have trouble grasping the permanence of death. “They will say Daddy is gone and an hour later wait at the window for Daddy to come home,” Schiffman said.
“They will say Daddy is gone and an hour later wait at the window for Daddy to come home.”
- Judy Schiffman, director of the Barr-Harris Children’s Grief Center
Kids around this age also have what’s called “magical thinking” ― so they may believe they’re somehow responsible for their parent’s death because of something they said, thought or did, or that the parent can be brought back to life.
“Reassure them that they did not cause the death and it is not some form of punishment,” Roese said.
Encourage your child to ask questions about the death.
Letting your kid know it’s OK if they have questions about what happened to their parent will help ensure that death doesn’t become a taboo subject in your house. And what your child asks may give you insight into how they’re dealing with things.
“Adults assume they know what their kids are thinking or afraid about and it’s often quite surprising,” Roese said. “Just listen, listen, listen.”
What You Need To Know To Help Your Child Grieve
Guiding your child through their grief while you’re grieving yourself can be difficult, to say the least. The therapist-backed advice below will better prepare you to handle the challenges that come your way.
Allow your kids to attend the funeral — if they want to.
You should never force your child to go to the wake, funeral or burial of a parent. That said, if they want to go, let them, said Schiffman. Giving your child the option to have that closure, if they want it, can be valuable in their healing. But make sure you prepare them beforehand for what they might see or hear if they decide to attend, like an open-casket viewing, for example.
If they want to be there, arrange for a person they’re comfortable with to accompany them to the service, as you will likely be too distracted to give them the attention they need, Schiffman said. And if the child says they want to leave or take a break at any point, allow them to do so.
Afterwards, expect that your child may ask you questions like, “Why is Mommy in the ground if she has gone to heaven?”
“Religion can dictate a response,” Schiffman said. “Or one way to answer is to say, ‘Mommy’s soul, her love of you, has gone to heaven but her body remains in the ground.’”
Know that children grieve differently than adults.
So try not to jump to conclusions about what your kid is — or isn’t — feeling. For example, grieving in bursts is totally normal for kids, even though it may seem odd to the parent.
“[Children] have a limited tolerance for pain,” Roese said. “They will take breaks in their grief and laugh and play. Adults do not usually do this and thus they assume their children are not grieving when they are.”
What’s more, grief is a very individual process, so even kids in the same family may be affected by the death in different ways, Kray said.
“When I have worked with multiple family members who are grieving the same person, I see the relationship and nuances and how vastly one sibling’s coping and processing can differ from the next,” she said. “Different approaches may not be understood, but ideally, they would be respected and welcomed.”
Ask them open-ended questions about how they’re doing and really listen to their answers.
For example, “How was it going back to school after the funeral?”; or, “How did it feel when your friend made that comment about you ‘not having a mom anymore?’” Kray suggested.
And if your child says they don’t feel like talking about Mom or Dad at the moment, try to be understanding of that.
“Respect [their] boundaries,” Kray said. “Extra credit for not taking them personally.”
It’s OK for your kid to see you sad sometimes.
Don’t feel pressured to disguise your feelings and “be strong” for your children all the time. You’re also going through an intensely stressful and emotional period so it’s only natural that you’d be upset.
“Do not hide your own tears,” Roese said. “Crying is a healthy release and this modeling allows kids to know it is OK to cry.”
Try to keep your kid’s routine as consistent as possible.
“Structure gives children security during a scary time,” Roese said.
That also means keeping household rules and discipline the same.
“The predictability of consequences will help the child feel secure,” Roese added.
And before your child goes back to school, be sure to let their teacher, counselor and the administrators know what happened. They can check in with the student, offer support and make note of any concerning changes in their behavior.
Your son or daughter may be more clingy after the death.
It’s common for a child who’s lost a parent to develop an intense fear of losing the other one. This may translate into a preoccupation with the living parent’s health and safety.
“They will often want to sleep in the bed or on the floor near the surviving parent,” Roese said. “Reassure them that your health is good and that you are there to take care of them.”
“Do not hide your own tears. Crying is a healthy release and this modeling allows kids to know it is OK to cry.”
- Ellen Roese, licensed clinical social worker
Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
You may be so focused on making sure your kids are OK that you neglect to tend to your own grief. Practicing some form of self-care — whether that’s journaling, getting some exercise, going to therapy or joining a grief support group — can help you cope with the loss, while also putting you in a better position to be able to help your kids.
“Please give yourself some credit for navigating a challenging and emotional situation, to put it mildly and over simplistically,” Kray said. “Because you are also grieving, I hope you can lead by example and find your own space to process the feelings that arise for you around the loss.”
Signs They Should See A Therapist
You may want to get your child professional counseling right away, but sometimes it’s better to let your kid grieve on their own before they talk to a therapist, Schiffman said.
“We often tell parents to wait for a while to see how the child is doing,” she said. “This can be anywhere from a couple weeks to six months.”
Given the magnitude of the loss, anticipate some changes to your child’s mood or behavior.
“Expect that children will regress in their behavior, have trouble focusing at school and fall apart over very small things,” Roese said. “Be patient with them.”
However, sometimes when these changes are intense or extreme, the child may be in need of professional help. Here are some of the signs to look out for, according to grief counselor Linda Goldman, author of “Life and Loss: A Guide To Helping Grieving Children.”
The child repeatedly refuses to talk about the death and how they’re feeling.
The child is having considerable problems at school, like behavioral issues, getting in trouble or failing classes.
The child shows drastic changes to their sleeping or eating — i.e., doing it in excess or not at all.
The child socially withdraws to the point that they’ve stopped playing with friends or wants to quit sports and other extracurricular activities.
The child threatens to harm him- or herself or is abusive toward animals or other kids.
Ways To Keep The Parent’s Memory Alive
Finding ways to commemorate the parent who died can be healing for both you and your kids. In the short term, this may include allowing your child to participate in the funeral or memorial service in some way (e.g. writing a letter to put in the casket, helping choose the family photos that will be on display, drawing a picture for the parent). Later on, it might mean planting a tree in the parent’s honor, visiting one of their favorite places, celebrating the parent’s birthday, framing photos to hang in their bedroom or around the house and just regularly talking and sharing memories about the person.
Consider helping your child put together a memory box that contains letters, cards, photos and other keepsakes that remind them of their parent. They can also create a memory book — “a collection of drawn or written feelings and thoughts that allow the child to re-experience memories in a safe way,” Goldman said.
“The books serve as useful tools to enable children to tell about the person who died, and open discussion,” she wrote in Healing Magazine. “Kids can share funny, happy or sad memories.”
But ultimately, it’s up to each family to determine what works best for them.
“Because there is no right nor single approach, I hope dialogue, brainstorming and sharing can happen within the family,” Kray said.
- Use simple words to talk about death. ...
- Listen and comfort. ...
- Put feelings into words. ...
- Tell your child what to expect. ...
- Explain events that will happen. ...
- Give your child a role. ...
- Help your child remember the person.
According to the results of this study, support initiated by professional should always include listening to parents and asking them at key moments after their child's death whether they need (extra) support and what kind of support they would like to receive.
- I know just how you feel. You can't. ...
- You must be incredibly angry/sad/frightened/confused. It's more useful to ask children how they are feeling than to tell them.
- At least you had the holidays together before she died.
Respect your child's way of handling the pain and expressing their grief. Be able to listen without commenting about what they should and shouldn't feel. “Be there to listen, talk about it, encourage your child to do so. Be honest – you don't know why it happens, it's not 'God's will'.
They found that the loss of a parent had an early and persistent negative impact on the academic and social functioning of the child that was in part due to the onset of depression within the first two years after the parent's death. The results were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
“I'm so sorry to hear that your father has died” may be all you need to start your message. “You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers” will work if it's true. “I will miss your mother; she touched my life in so many ways” is a good opening for writing about ways that she touched your life.
You feel the most of your grief within the first 6 months after a loss. It's normal to have a tough time for the first year, Schiff says. After then, you often accept your parent's death and move on. But the grief may bubble up, especially on holidays and birthdays.
- Help Younger Students Understand What Has Happened. ...
- Invite Older Students to Talk. ...
- Allow Children to Express Themselves. ...
- Reach Out to Parents or Caregivers and Offer Assistance. ...
- Provide Learning Supports. ...
- Shock. Feelings of shock are unavoidable in nearly every situation, even if we feel we have had time to prepare for the loss of a loved one. ...
- Denial. ...
- Anger. ...
- Bargaining. ...
- Depression. ...
- Acceptance and hope. ...
- Processing grief.
Losing a Parent During Childhood Can Create Lifelong Trauma.
An orphan is a child whose parents have died. The term is sometimes used to describe any person whose parents have died, though this is less common.
Depression is usually the longest and most difficult stage of grief.
The Link Between Grief, Addiction, and Mental Illness
Studies show that losing a parent can lead to increased risks for long-term emotional and mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Studies have shown that for most people, the worst symptoms of grief — depression, sleeplessness, loss of appetite — peak at six months. As the first year continues, you may find these feelings ebb. But it's normal to still feel some grief years after a death, especially on special occasions.
Listen more, talk less.
Keep the focus on the child who is grieving and give them plenty of space and time to talk. Consider saying something like: “I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you,” or “I wonder what this is like for you,” and then offer your time and attention as a good listener.
- I'm sorry for your loss. ...
- Please accept my deepest condolences for you and your family's loss. ...
- My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. ...
- I am truly sorry to hear about the loss of your father. ...
- It was with great sadness that we learned of Daniel's passing.
- I'm sorry.
- I care about you.
- He/she will be dearly missed.
- He/she is in my thoughts and prayers.
- You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
- You are important to me.
- My condolences.
- I hope you find some peace today.
➢ Grief is what we think and feel on the inside when someone we love dies. Examples include fear, loneliness, panic, pain, yearning, anxiety, emptiness etc. ➢ It is the internal meaning given to the experience of loss. ➢ Mourning is the outward expression of our grief; it is the expression of one's grief.
There's no exact time frame to adhere to. You may remain in one of the stages of grief for months but skip other stages entirely. This is typical. It takes time to go through the grieving process.
In Russian funerals, this 40 number also relates to pagan traditions. The 40 days is an opportunity for judgment before God. It's believed in Eastern Orthodox religions that the soul completes many obstacles known as the aerial toll houses. The soul passes through the aerial realm, which is home to evil spirits.
- Get a pronouncement of death. ...
- Contact your parent's friends and family. ...
- Secure your parent's home. ...
- Make funeral and burial plans. ...
- Get copies of the death certificate. ...
- Locate life insurance policies. ...
- Locate the will and start the probate process. ...
- Take inventory of assets and financial accounts.
At the end of the day, something as simple as “I'm so sorry for your loss” or “I'm so sad for you and your family, please accept my deepest condolences” is always appropriate.
Young children do not need to be there when a parent actually dies, but it's important for them to stay in their home where they feel the most secure. It may be tempting to have a child stay with another relative during this time, but that can create other problems for the child.
- Stick Together.
- Seek Professional Help.
- Accept Help.
- Prepare for Delayed Grief.
- Continue Seeing a Professional.
- Find a Support Group.
- Pay Attention to Your Health.
- Avoid Negative People.
The best ways that a health care professional can support a grieving family are by offering a nonjudgmental, deep sense of caring and personal involvement. Before and after the death of a baby, parents should be allowed to spend as much time as is needed with their child.
after a death, many children want to share their story telling their story is a healing experience one of the best ways adults can help young grievers is to listen to their stories children also need continuity (normal activities), care (plenty of hugs and cuddles) and connection (to still feel connected to the parent who has died, and to you). It may help to ask other family members and friends to help you care for your child / children in the weeks following the death, when your own grief is overwhelming.. It’s important that your child is able to still feel connected to the parent who has died and to you.. did I cause my parent to die?. Make a memory store/box and use this to store precious things that offer memories of the parent who has died.. Many of these signs are normal following the death of a parent but may indicate a problem if they continue for a long time and don't seem likely to change.. Has continuing difficulty talking about their parent who has died.. It is very important to check, and OK to ask, whether the clinician has clinical training and experience in working with children and young people.
after a death, many children want to share their story telling their story is a healing experience one of the best ways adults can help young grievers is to listen to their stories children also need continuity (normal activities), care (plenty of hugs and cuddles) and connection (to still feel connected to the parent who has died, and to you). Talk to your child’s school and teacher about what has happened as soon as you can so that they are able to provide extra support for your child.. It may help to ask other family members and friends to help you care for your child / children in the weeks following the death, when your own grief is overwhelming.. It’s quite natural to want to withdraw for a while and it is at this time that children can feel lonely and disconnected from their grieving parent.. It’s important that your child is able to still feel connected to the parent who has died and to you.. adequate information about the death their fears and anxieties addressed reassurance that they are not to blame careful listening acknowledgement and acceptance of their feelings and grief a sense of safety in the world respect for their own way of coping people who will guide and help help with overwhelming emotions involvement and inclusion in rituals and anniversaries opportunities to remember the person who has died. The death of a parent can shake the foundations of a child's belief in the world as a safe place.. Some children may worry about getting sick and dying themselves and it may reassure them to visit your family doctor for a check-up.. It is important for children to have some of the special objects that belonged to their parent.. Has continuing difficulty talking about their parent who has died.. Remember that very young children and infants are also deeply affected by the loss of a parent although their way of managing the feelings will not always be obvious.
Encourage your child to ask questions about the death.. Letting your kid know it’s OK if they have questions about what happened to their parent will help ensure that death doesn’t become a taboo subject in your house.. Guiding your child through their grief while you’re grieving yourself can be difficult, to say the least.. Don’t feel pressured to disguise your feelings and “be strong” for your children all the time.. Here are a few of my favorite resources that complement our Positive Parenting Solutions course .. How does it support Positive Parenting?. How does it support Positive Parenting?. How does it support Positive Parenting?. How does it support Positive Parenting?. I love Amy Lang’s courses because she gives parents actionable steps and SCRIPTS to engage in healthy conversations about body parts and sex in a way that supports YOUR family values.. How does it support Positive Parenting?. How does it support Positive Parenting?. GoZen has the resources you need to address any deeper emotional needs to ensure Positive Parenting works effectively for your child.. How does it support Positive Parenting?
Death of a family member or friend Death of a family pet Parents separating or a family break-up Moving to a new home or school Loss of a favourite toy or comforter Changing teachers or classes Loss of a friendship or friend moving away Having a disability or medical illness Finding out a family member is sick Loss related to a crisis - fire, flood, accident. Here are some tips to help you support a child who is experiencing grief and loss:. Encourage them to talk to a caring adult if they feel uneasy talking to you. Help them find ways to express their feelings through play, writing, drawing, music. Breaking the news about a death to a child is never easy, but it’s important they know and feel heard and supported by you in the process.. Try to be as honest and open as possible about what has happened Use age-appropriate language so it’s easier for them to understand Use concrete words – for example, say ‘died’ or ‘death’ Avoid using euphemisms like ‘gone to sleep’ or ‘passed away’ Listen to them - it’s ok not to have all the answers right now Answer the questions you can in a calm and consistent manner Be patient – they may need to hear the answers several times to process it Use storybooks, toys and play to help explain what has happened Let them know that they can talk to you at any time Ask another trusted adult to talk to your child if you feel too distressed Encourage them to express their feelings by sharing your own feelings
So how does the death of a parent affect a child?. These adults then have suppressed emotions or repressed emotions .. But on the other hand, a study finds that repressed emotions serve an adaptive role in the grieving process.. A parent’s suppressing or repressing may or may not be healthy to their own mental well-being.. Parents who practice positive parenting are warm and supportive.. Effective positive parenting can help children’s adjustment after their parent’s death.. Negative life events following parental loss are linked to an increase in child mental health problems 13 .. Active coping strategies are associated with more positive adaptation following the death of one or both parents 14 .. Helping children manage this anxiety after losing a parent at a young age can be done by focusing on teaching children where their responsibilities lie.. Children’s Adjustment to Parental Death.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology .. Evidence-based practices for parentally bereaved children and their families.. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice .. Sandler IN, Wolchik SA, Ayers TS, Tein J-Y, Luecken L. Family bereavement program (FBP) approach to promoting resilience following the death of a parent.. Positive Parenting as a Protective Resource for Parentally Bereaved Children.
Grief therapists and counsellors share what a parent can do to lovingly support a young child after the other parent has died.. You want to be as straightforward as possible about how their parent died, but only to a degree that’s appropriate for your child’s age and developmental stage.. Children around 3-5 years also have what’s called “magical thinking”, so they may believe they’re somehow responsible for their parent’s death because of something they said, thought or did, or that the parent can be brought back to life.. Letting your child know it’s OK if they have questions about what happened to their parent will help ensure that death doesn’t become a taboo subject in your house.. In the short term, this may include allowing your child to participate in the funeral or memorial service in some way (e.g. writing a letter to put in the casket, helping choose the family photos that will be on display, drawing a picture for the parent).. Creating a scrapbook or memory box can help the child feel connected to a parent who has died.. Consider helping your child put together a memory box that contains letters, cards, photos and other keepsakes that remind them of their parent.
If you ever find yourself in such a situation, the information shared here can help you assist a child who is dealing with grief after losing a parent.. Discussing the death of a loved one is overwhelming to anyone and it’s even worse when talking about the loss of a parent to a child.. The child will continue to understand the words as they get older.. If you choose to hide the truth about the nature of death may be because you think it may be too tough to the child, the child may not trust you later especially after learning more about the death of the parent.. Even though you may want to close the discussion about the loss of the children’s parents in the shortest time possible, please it’s important to allow the ask questions.. Let the children know that it’s perfectly normal to cry and feel sad for losing their parents.. Showing them it’s okay to grieve the loss of someone special to them like their parents will let them feel comfortable to tell you how exactly they feel about the whole issue.. After the loss of a parent, some children may want to share their story.
Fathers tend to die before mothers, so most kids who’ve experienced a parent’s death have lost their dads.. When I joined the Dead Dads Club, few adults knew how to talk about death with a child.. In Deuteronomy 32:7 , the Bible instructs children to ask their fathers to tell them the stories of the past — what God did for people who came before them.. Kids who don’t have a dad need someone else to tell them those stories.. It’s easier than watching their children sit through the discomfort of coloring a card for a dad they don’t have.. If you’re planning a Father’s Day celebration for your church or student ministry, keep in mind that some kids in your group may have buried their dads.. But as much as you can, help children experiencing a father’s death stay in contact with their relatives and family members.. People who navigated a father’s death as children report experiencing their grief at multiple key points during their life.. If God has a heart for children experiencing a father’s death (and Psalm 10:17-18 assures us that He does), then as God’s family members, we have been called to compassion, too.. “Lots of dads abandon their kids, and that’s worse than dying.. Men like you and me get to share in making His fatherhood a reality for kids with a father’s death.
The grief and emotional state of children during this difficult time can be left unconsidered, as the significant adults in children’s lives are dealing with their own grief, handling their waves of emotions and learning how to cope.. Children up to 2 years old have no concept of death; however, this does not mean that they do not feel the impact of a loved one’s death .. Their grief may be expressed through:. While preschoolers are able to understand more of the concepts surrounding death than infants, the confusion, anxiety, and fear they may feel after the loss of a loved one may lead to behavior such as:. At this age, you can begin to comfort children through conversation as well as action.. In addition to understanding the physical meaning of death , children of this age often begin asking questions concerning what happens after a loved one dies.. This is often an age where many questions about life and death first abound, as children, in their grief, feel:. Guilt over the death of the loved one, as the child may fear their thought or conversation with the loved one caused the loved one to die. At this age, children are better able to express how they feel after the death of a loved one.. Adults and children can begin discussing and exploring fears, sadness, and uncertainties that surround death and what brings comfort after the loss of a loved one.. In addition to encouraging the sharing of thoughts and emotions, the following can help your school-age child begin to heal after a loss:. Being now more socially involved, children are dealing with their own feelings of grief and loss, but also weigh the social implications of their expressed emotions, leading to feelings of:. Offering open conversation and honest discussion about the life and death of the deceased loved one
Related story. Christina Perri's Pregnancy Loss Might Have Been Preventable & She's On a Mission to Bring Awareness to Moms Everywhere We may have an urge to shield children from sadness after the loss of a beloved family member, friend or pet.. If it applies to them, parents can also add family beliefs about where the soul goes after death into their talks about loss, Fran Walfish, PsyD, a family and relationship psychotherapist, explains to SheKnows.. One of the ways you can help your child process their own grief is to be open about your emotions.. “Through the process, changes in behavior, such as lack of concentration, bouts of sadness or signs of fear, should be noted and acknowledged, as this will help the child feel more secure,” Nalin says.. Helping your child manage grief while also wading through your own fluctuating emotions can be a lot to handle, but you can find help from a “death doula.” You may be more familiar with doulas concerning the birthing process .. The grief process will be different for each family and each person in it, including the children.. If you’re at a loss for what to say or do, remember Johnson-Young’s mantra: “Our job as the big people is to teach, to support, to continue to keep our loved ones with us after they die, to acknowledge their absence — and to let kids be kids.”
Then, as we’re managing our own grief, we need to help an innocent child process his or her grief, too.. We recommend this one-on-one time for all parents and children–but for a grieving child, it is especially crucial.. Please Note: We should follow a child’s lead during the grieving process.. It’s hard not knowing what response to expect from a grieving child at any given moment, or what seemingly harmless activity could trigger an emotional reaction.. Just try to remember that your child’s out-of-character behavior doesn’t mean you’re in for a future of defiance and power struggles–it’s probably just the grief that’s talking.. Please Note: Although we should let compassion and patience be our guides during this process, if we do see signs of violence or other extreme types of behavior from a grieving child, we should seek professional help immediately.. We should feel free to acknowledge pain, but we also want to show grieving children that it’s possible to manage pain, too–no matter how unbelievable that may seem at times.. Play Young children often make sense of their grief through play.. This means you may find your daughter in the middle of a nurse Barbie reenactment after her time in hospice with grandma, or encounter your son making a funeral procession with his toy cars.. Communication If talking about death or loss is important to your child but is too hard for you to talk about just yet, encourage her to talk to a counselor or someone that’s willing to discuss it more openly (see Seeking Outside Resources below).. “In respectful loss, we pass to children a reverence for the irreplaceable gift of each human life.” – Sharon Holbrook, The Washington Post Please Note: Don’t force your child to attend a funeral if they’d rather not, but don’t keep them from one, either.. No matter what grief your child is facing, I highly encourage you to find outside resources for help.. The National Alliance for Grieving Children is a great place to find a grief support program or counselor near you.. Anyone that might make your child feel less alone in the grieving process is a helping hand for you both.. Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling .
– It doesn’t have to be a hurried process and they don’t have to cry right away.. – It’s ok to feel the things you are feeling in this process.. However, your kids don’t have to feel what you do.. Please don’t force them to feel your hurt.. She really is but she became so angry in the weeks and months following the loss of Dada.. Expect this behavior but don’t excuse it.. Give your child alternative ways to process their grief.. When they didn’t cry, she thought she couldn’t either.. It won’t be easy for your child to see you cry, but it will be harder for them to try and process big emotions thinking they can’t cry.. However, when you cry in front of your kids you are giving yourself a chance to be honest with them about grief and the why of crying.. Be honest with what they can expect from the service.. Knowing these things can help them to “behave” in the way they are expected to.. Grief hurts and your child will need to process through that.. Sometimes kids just need to struggle and go through the messy process of grief.. Anger is a healthy part of grief but sometimes kids have a harder time sharing that emotion.
If you’re worried about talking with your child about death, you’re not alone.. What you say to. children about death and dying depends not only on their age, developmental level, and experiences, but also your. experiences, beliefs, and feelings.. Adults and children experienced. death together, mourned as a family, and comforted one another through the process of grief.. Further, spiritual and emotional support for a child who is dealing with death and/or dying must include talking with the. child about death.. School age children (ages 5 through 9 years) usually begin to understand that death is. final and all living things die, but they do not yet understand the personal nature of death.. Healthy children should be allowed to laugh, giggle, bring friends home, or watch television. (Kübler-Ross, 1983).. If the child wishes to care for the dying person, allow them to do so.. While it may not be easy to “hear” what a child has to say, listening. attentively, respecting their views, and answering questions honestly help children deal with death in a healthy. way .. It is vitally important for parents, family members, and guardians to respect the process of grief and loss that. children experience and talk with them about the experience.. Hold and/or comfort the child , use play therapy, make sure the child has adequate pain control (if the child is the. one with the serious or terminal illness), and take the time to participate in activities that support your child’s. and your family’s spiritual life.. If you haven’t done so, take the time to learn about spirituality, health, and death as they relate to your own. culture and religious beliefs .. Talking with children about death.. On children and death.. Talking to children about death.
In addition to coping with their grief, the children are often left in charge of planning the funeral as well as handling the various legal details.. It will discuss the many emotions and reactions you and your siblings may be experiencing, and how those emotions may come into play when it comes to planning services and managing the legalities.. Never forget that in addition to being sensitive to the feelings of others, you should also take special care of yourself during this trying time.. Focus instead on supporting them no matter how they feel, and be honest about your own emotions.. Be sensitive to how others feel but give them the opportunity to respect how you feel, too.. One of the first questions you’ll have to deal with is the kind of burial your parent requested.. If the family has always done cremations in the past and each sibling is comfortable with it, for example, you might be able to work with someone familiar and sensitive to your family’s situation.. When it comes to dividing remaining personal assets, look for every opportunity to compromise.. At the other end, if you find that you are having trouble with the idea of selling the family home, speak up.. If they aren’t so understanding, simply ask them to respect your feelings and hold off on trying to sell for at least a month or so.. The death of a parent will bring on a rollercoaster of emotions for everyone, so know what to expect and respect how each of your siblings are feeling.
The stages of grief for a parent who’ve lost a child are often more profound than for any other type of loss.. Having open communication with them will help all of you understand what each of you is going through during this painful time.. Many people are afraid to let others in on how they’re feeling.. Be honest with your feelings and emotions regarding the loss of your child.. When you experience the death of a child, you may find yourself going through every detail of their death.. It may even seem an impossibility in the first few days after suffering this type of loss.
If you are also experiencing grief , it may feel overwhelming to support someone else through loss simultaneously.. Your child’s age is one of the factors you may want to consider when determining how much information to share with them about an upsetting event.. Becoming overwhelmed by emotions is a typical feeling that children experiencing loss may experience.. This is one way to help your child understand what’s happened.. If they’ve lost someone important in their daily life, anger is an expected reaction.. Starting a dialogue with your child about what’s happening and what they’re feeling can help, so that your child’s imagination doesn’t make the situation seem worse than it already is.. It’s common for teens to feel out of control when they experience a significant loss.. the cause of death who died (sibling, friend, parent) whether the teen has had previous experience with death the maturity level of the teen. Disenfranchised grief is when a person is denied their right to feel loss.. This is because resuming your prior routine sometimes has an unsettling effect: It may make your child feel like the person they’ve lost has been forgotten.. Children of all ages feel loss, just in different ways.. Younger children may not fully understand the event surrounding a loss, but they still grieve.. It may also help to provide the security of structure and the healthy modeling of good self-care.. You’re not alone in this process of helping your child through grief.
Is it okay to talk about my own child who died or other losses?. It’s common to think that it’s too painful for bereaved parents to talk about their child who died, so well meaning friends and family often avoid the subject.. Grieving parents may think that their child has been forgotten or that no one cares, so they should feel better by now.. Should I recommend the Grief Recovery Handbook, 2 ½ Day Personal Workshop or your Grief Recovery Support Groups to grieving parents?. So by all means, feel free to direct your grieving friends and loved ones to The Grief Recovery Method where they will find the resources they need to heal their broken hearts.
For parents who have lost a child, it makes no sense for life to end at such a young age—particularly when the death is sudden and without warning.. Everyone else gets back to life as they know it and the grieving family begins to face life without the one they lost.. Talking to each other about your loss, the loved one who has died, and what you are feeling will help everyone in your family process their grief.. Remember, knowing that their family is still strong can help your other children successfully navigate their grieving process, as well.. While it doesn't take the place of seeing a dedicated professional, groups can add another layer of support.. More often than not, parents and their children are so overcome with grief over the sudden loss of a loved one, that they neglect their own health.. Most people find that when they feel better physically, they also start to feel better mentally.. They may say things like "you should be over this by now" or "at least you have another child.". Grief is a process.. They also need to go back to school and get into a routine of studying.. Getting back into a routine doesn't mean that you have to pretend like things are the same.. And while coping with the loss will not be easy, if you make a concerted effort to stick together as a family and take care of yourselves, you will make it through.. The important thing is that you rely on one another, communicate regularly even when it is uncomfortable, and continue to see a professional who can help you process your emotions and find workable solutions for continuing your life.
Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy; stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.. He doesn’t carry the baby in his body, so the baby may seem less real to him.. He may become more attached to the baby later in pregnancy when he feels the baby kick or sees the baby on an ultrasound.. You can say things like, “The baby didn’t grow,” or “The baby was born very tiny.” Don’t say things that may confuse them like, “The baby is sleeping,” or “Mommy lost the baby.” Read them stories that talk about death and loss.. Certain things, like hearing names you were thinking of for your baby or seeing the baby’s nursery at home, may be painful reminders of your loss.. If you want them to, ask them to use your baby’s name and to remember your baby.. Sad about not having time to grieve for your baby who died.. If you lose a baby and have one who lives, it may be hard to find time to grieve while you’re caring for your living baby.. It may be hard for you to go to the newborn intensive care unit (also called NICU) to care for your living baby if your other baby died there.. You may feel happy about the baby you bring home from the hospital and sad about the baby you lost.
Published: December 23, 2020Updated: July 28, 2022. Acceptable sources include government agencies, universities and colleges, scholarly journals, industry and professional associations, and other high-integrity sources of mental health journalism.. Learn more by reviewing our full editorial policy .. Bereavement and divorce: Does the death of a child affect parents’ marital stability?. Fletcher, J., Mailick, M., Song, J., & Wolfe, B.. A sibling death in the family: Common and consequential.. Stikkelbroek, Y., Bodden, D. H., Reitz, E., Vollebergh, W. A., & van Baar, A. L. (2016).. Mental health of adolescents before and after the death of a parent or sibling.. On grief and grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss.
Jump ahead to these sections: An estrangement between a parent and an adult child can happen because of things that happen later on in life.. The feeling of not being good enough, or not living up to a parent's expectations can lead to hurt feelings and estrangement between a parent and an adult child.. Upon receiving the news of an estranged parent’s death, it can be hard to know what to do and what to say.. If you find yourself faced with the news of the death of an estranged parent, consider thinking through how you'll react.. Try finding ways to show respect even when you feel that your estranged parent didn't deserve it.. When confronted with friends and family at a funeral or memorial service for your estranged parent, take a deep breath, and think before you say anything hurtful.. When an estranged parent dies, you can try and make up for your differences by helping plan and pay for the funeral expenses, donating in their honor, or simply go on with life as usual.. If you don't feel the need to participate in a funeral or memorial service, you don’t have to.. If you choose to attend even when not invited, you'll need to brush up on funeral etiquette for an estranged family .. Whether you've been invited to attend the funeral or memorial service, or if you've interpreted the online death notice as an open invitation, there are certain protocols you should be aware of when dealing with estrangement within the family.. Here's a list of the basics of funeral etiquette when estranged from your family:. Just because you were estranged from your parent at their time of death doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't write a eulogy in their honor .. If you aren't really sure, talk to other family members about what they know about your parent’s hobbies.. If you don't want to attend the funeral or memorial service, you can opt for sending a sympathy gift.
Here are some guidelines for talking about the loss with your toddler:. “When someone dies, it means they cannot talk or play anymore.. Can I die so I can be with Grammy?. “I understand that you want to be with Grammy.. It can help to offer a simple, concrete explanation: “Grammy’s body stopped working.. Parents may notice behavior changes in their children after the loss.. Parents may notice toddlers playing “dying” games.. If your child’s grief seems particularly intense, persistent or seems to interfere with their play or learning, ask your health care provider to connect you with a mental health professional trained in supporting young children.
This can be because your child knows that you are there and will not go away.. As with the grief of a grandparent there is no time table for the grief of a parent.. Don’t be surprised if at first you cannot reach out to your grieving child.. If you don’t say anything, I’ll think you don’t care about me, but if you do say something, it might make me feel worse.. His parents provide practical support.
Complicated grief after the death of a child can be difficult to recognize and further complicated by the nature of the parent-child relationship.. Consumed by grief and refusing to engage with a world outside her memories, she stopped seeing friends.. Death will always bring grief to the living.. However, in many relationships, death is a natural component of the lifecycle of both individuals and relationships; you can expect to experience the loss of your parents.. But the loss of a child is different.. As such, the specific context in which complicated grief arises may be different for parents than it is for someone who loses a parent, spouse, or friend, but it is in no way inevitable and there are universal symptoms that define it:. One of the most painful relationship disruptions for parents after the loss of a child is often that which they have with their partner.. Parents who experience complicated grief after the death of a child often feel trapped between the unbearable weight of their grief and a reluctance to release themselves from that grief.. After all, if grief is an expression of love, what does it mean if you stop grieving?. What does it mean to accept your child’s death or to experience joy and purpose after a profound loss?. Will moving through your grief mean moving away from your child’s memory?. You will never live without their memory, and you should never have to.
Many times the death of a grandparent is a child's first real brush with mortality.. After the death of a grandparent, your child will need reassurance.. Guilt often accompanies feelings about death, so reassure your child that the loss of their grandparent is not their fault.. Also, mentioning the name of the deceased provides an opening for your child to talk about death, which can be healing.. The best thing you can do for a child whose grandparent has died is to be there and offer space for them to talk and grieve.. Rituals like carrying a photo of their loved one, talking about special memories or favorite things about the person they love, and reading age-appropriate books about death and dying can be especially helpful for toddlers who are processing death.
So many of these parents feel that there is no way they will ever find relief for the enormous emotional pain they are experiencing, but they are still looking for hope.. The emotional (and even physical) pain associated with the loss of a child can be overwhelming, to say the least.. When a child dies at or prior to birth, the situation can still be horribly painful, but others are even less likely to understand that pain.. My parents tried to make things better for me, but sadly could offer no useful tools to help me with the emotional pain I was experiencing.. If you keep repeating the same non-helpful actions to deal with your emotional pain, eventually your body will tell you that these actions are not working!. The problem arises when it is a group that only allows you the repeated opportunity to share your emotional pain, but offers no opportunity to take action to move beyond the devastation of the loss.. For many parents dealing with the death of a child, they find themselves so overwhelmed by that moment of loss, that it they can no longer fully think about all of the other elements of that relationship.. The Grief Recovery Method is designed to help you let go of the emotional pain associated with the loss of your child and to allow you to better enjoy your fond memories.. It guides you through figuring out all those items of unfinished business in your very personal relationship with your child and walks you through the actions you need to take to move beyond the emotional pain of the loss.
The pain you feel after a sibling dies can be immense.. Feeling grief or a huge sense of loss are natural responses to losing someone important in your life.. This article will discuss why the loss of a sibling is different than other types of loss, how sibling loss isn’t discussed much, reactions and effects of sibling loss, how long to mourn and ways to help you cope with sibling grief.. We fight with our younger siblings, learn from our older siblings, play with our brothers and sisters and compete with them.. Practitioners and researchers in the field of psychology have not devoted much attention to the special relationship siblings have or how death impacts siblings.. If you worked in a family business, the loss of your brother might also represent the loss of your business buddy.. There’s no "normal” amount of time to grieve the loss of a sibling.. Nor does that mean you won’t feel sadness or loneliness about the loss of your sibling.. For those bereaved after losing a sibling, here are ways to help you cope with the grief and find a way through your loss.. The Compassionate Friends Sibling Groups and Modern Loss offer resources to help you deal with grief.
Find an AFSP chapter in your community, make use of the support they offer, and connect with other survivors of suicide loss.. After my son died, I found a therapist for my surviving son, as well as a grief counselor for myself.. If I had a doctor’s appointment, I asked a friend to call in advance to tell the doctor what had happened, because I couldn’t bear the thought of answering the typical question, “So did anything important happen this year?” As another example, I’m a lawyer, and eventually after my son’s death, I had to appear in court for clients.. Do whatever feels comfortable for you, and don’t do anything you don’t want to do.. See how you feel that day, and do whatever feels right to you then.. Don’t clean up your child’s room or their belongings until you are ready.. You might wonder, “If I lost my only child, am I still a mother or father?” You raised your child, and can keep your child’s memory alive in meaningful ways, when you are ready.. Some people find that giving their child’s friends a special item of theirs is meaningful.. Whether it’s helping out with the annual International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day , the Healing Conversations program, or any number of other ways you can get involved, I have found that once I had given myself time to process my loss, giving back to a community of fellow loss survivors aided me in my own grief journey.