Updated: Nov 1
If you read my post "How Childhood Losses Affect Your Grief Process as an Adult", this is a good follow up for you!
Here are some of the ways we can do better for grieving children:
(If you have done any inner child work with a therapist or on your own, I encourage you to use some of these strategies to parent your inner child and provide some healthy loss responses to your younger self.)
-Provide space to talk about feelings or write feelings down.
-Tell the truth at an age appropriate level about what happened or what is happening.
-Let them see the dying person or pet.
-Regularly check in and ask if they have any questions.
-Let them hear the facts from multiple people (a doctor, hospice nurse, etc).
-Talk about memories of the person.
-Create a ritual--release a balloon, plant a tree, paint a rock and place it in their favorite spot, etc.
-Include them in a memorial service or funeral.
-Talk to them about a time when someone you loved died to normalize the experience of loss.
How to talk to your young child about what happens after we die?
I'll use an example of talking to my three-year-old nephew when his dog had died and he was asking questions after reading a book with me called "Life is like the Wind." (It is a grief book for kids that I would highly recommend.) It's also important to note that this conversation started because my nephew had safe space in his own home to talk about the loss. He often would bring up his dog, Rico, and cry a bit. His emotional openness was beautiful to witness.
Child: "Rico isn't here anymore." *he begins to cry*
Me: "That's true. Rico isn't here anymore and that feels sad."
(I paused for a while to just sit with his grief and to see if he said anything else.)
Me: "Can I tell you something really neat about love?"
Me: "How much do you love Rico?"
Child: "This much." *spreads arms*
Me: "And now that Rico died, did your love change?"
Me: "That's right! Even though Rico died, your love stayed the same. Your love didn't die. And I know Rico loved you, and his love didn't die either. When you think about Rico, can you feel your love for him?"
Child: *nods and smiles*
Me: "Isn't that a really amazing thing? Even when someone we love dies, we can think of them and feel the same love, and that love lasts forever. So we have something that never dies. Even when we can't see someone anymore, we can feel our love for them."