What every parent needs to know to help their grieving child
When a family member dies, the whole family can feel fractured and incomplete. There are ways to help your child feel connected to the person who died.
Grief can be a horrible journey. It is something that we never get over, and it is something that we need to get through. After the death of a family member many things will never be the same again. The landscape of our lives will be very different. Often it is incredibly difficult to think straight and maintain any regular routine.
Ways You Can You Help Your Child Maintain Their Connection
Children can feel lonely and disconnected from their grieving parent during this time. It’s important you are still able to create an environment of connection both to you and the person who has died.
Some practical ways to create an environment of connection are:
- Acknowledged their emotions with empathy – They might need hugs and cuddles for reassurance too
- Reassure them it's not their fault – Choose your words carefully and if necessary or appropriate – look for the queues
- Respect your child’s coping mechanisms and help with overwhelming emotions
- Include them – If it’s appropriate they should be invited and included in special occasions and anniversaries. Sharing stories about the person who has died can also help
- Lean on those you trust and respect - Let them help in practical ways, pick the kids up, help make a meal, mow the lawn, tidy the house
- Gather together as you would at normal meal times – Even if it is only to pick at the food
- Make sure the adults that are responsible for the for the care of your child are aware of the situation – School teacher, sports coach, friends parents etc
- As mentioned in Part 1 regarding teenagers, this can be a complex time for them. Encourage connection with others who they admire and respect. This can be good in assisting and maintaining the balance.
Other things parents need to be aware of:
- Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. Kids will learn how to grieve from you
- Remember to talk about the one who has died. Use their name often
- If possible, talk about the one who has died with thankfulness, gratitude and respect. This will help to keep things a little more positive
- Encourage storytelling, laughter and tears
- Make sure you are doing something that recharges your batteries. Do the things that are good for you. You know what recharges and energises yourself, remember to take some time out and do the same for the children. It is not disrespectful and does not mean that you don’t care
- Be careful not to indulge in too much alcohol, it is a depressant. Drinking can complicate and exacerbate grief and relationships. Seeing you intoxicated can be unsettling for children to see
- You may not be aware, but grief can come in waves and show itself in different ways. Due to the stress levels, we are not at our peak, our thinking is foggy and sometimes we may feel like we are losing our minds. This abnormal feeling is quite a normal stage in grief.
Questions your child might ask:
Who will look after me?
The world as they knew it has changed.
This can shake the foundations of a child’s belief in the world as a safe place.
Your child might need plenty of reassurance and encouragement to begin to feel safe again.
Will I get sick?
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’s a good idea to phone the doctor before you visit so that they can be prepared for any questions your child may ask.
Even if your child doesn't ask these questions it might help to talk about this in your everyday conversations.
Remember, don’t be afraid to ask for someone for help!
There are people who can assist you during this journey. These can be:
- A psychologist
- A good friend who you respect
- (Even the funeral director)
These are great people to call upon during this time.
Some might be able to guide you to the right person or give you the help you need.
Should We Do The Things We Used To Do?
It’s important to maintain as many normal activities as possible.
If they are OK about going to school or sport or going to a friend’s party, let them go – you as the adult might need help with that!
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By Aaron Hille