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  • Writer's pictureSerena Johnson

You can not properly grieve in isolation , we all need the support, strength and love of a

community. This is very true for children as well. Children are sometimes silent grievers. Family members tend to keep children out of talks of death, grief and mourning in order to protect them, but in the long run it’s not the healthiest choice. You have to talk with your child or they will be left to fill in the gaps and make assumptions that aren’t true and can be detrimental. Children are very imaginative and so even a little misinformation could ultimately lead them to extreme misunderstandings of the incident and reality of the death of their loved one. They can handle the truth more than you know. It’s important of course to keep drastic details of a tragic death to a minimum- so use discretion, but they should have the basic understanding of how their loved one died. For instance, if the child’s grandfather died, you might consider informing the child of

his death. Avoid using phrases that leave room for confusion like “has passed away” “went to heaven”, “is sleeping”, or “in a better place”. This could lead them to believe that their grandfather chose to be elsewhere versus being with them and could lead to feelings of confusion and possibly rejection. Never lie to your child, they will find it hard to trust you in other circumstances hereafter. Ask your child if they have any questions about their loved ones death and be available to answer those questions and listen to them. Don’t press them to talk if they

aren’t willing, as they might need time to digest everything, but assure them that you will be there for them. Be sure to give them lots of extra hugs, extra attention and support. If you are unable to provide this because you yourself are grieving as well, I encourage you to enlist the help of family members and friends to be a support system to the child as well.

Honoring the memory of your loved is a healthy part of the grief process. You should find ways to help your child keep their loved one's memories alive. This could be done through sharing stories with your children about their loved one, create a photo album of the loved one and talk about the memories they remember from the pictures, keep their recipes in the family, allow your child to draw a picture or write a letter to the loved one, plant a tree or flowers in honor of

the loved one etc etc.

Whether you like it or not, how you (as the adult) handle your grief affects your child - so I encourage you to be a good role model of grief. Children are imitators and watch adults to get clues on how they are supposed to grieve. They learn by watching and imitating so be aware of what they’re picking up from you. Remember It’s healthy for them to see you cry. No one is asking you to appear perfect, in control or untouched by grief. Avoiding your grief teaches them

it’s okay to block the pain away. Their little minds can’t comprehend the damage that it will do later on. I’m also not saying that you expose them to intense grief reactions that would scare them. It’s about being mindful of letting them see what healthy grief emotions looks like.


Ultimately children are very resilient! Be sure to check out my suggested reading list for more helpful resources. Specifically “35

ways to help a grieving child” by The Dougy Center.

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