Ten tips to help grieving children was developed from the children who participated in Professor Child’s film, Children and Grief. In the film ten brave children share their stories of losing a loved one. They share their grief and loss, as well as how they are coping and healing. Their advice for both children and adults who have lost a loved one is honest, sincere and heartfelt. These children have experienced a life-changing event yet manage to share their stories with a sense of strength and resiliency. Children and Grief will leave you with a sense of hope and an understanding that you are not alone in experiencing death. For more information, please visit www.professorchild.com.
1. Encourage children to share their grief story.
In Children and Grief, all of the children interviewed emphasized the importance of talking about their experience. “If kids don’t talk to anybody, I feel like they’ll be just left alone and keep on being sad,” shared Aurora, 9. Don’t be scared to ask kids difficult questions, they truly want to be heard.
2. What does grief mean to you?
“Grief means every emotion, I think,” shared Alexander, 14. Encourage children to create their own definition of grief. What does it mean to them? Help them understand there are many ways to experience grief, there is no wrong or right way, and all of their feelings are valid.
3. If kids are not talking about their grief, don’t assume everything is okay.
When a death of a loved one occurs, adults are often faced with grief and dealing with new worries and challenges. Children also have worries and challenges, but may not be sharing them out of concern for the adults. Encourage children to share their worries and challenges with you and let them know they are not alone in what they are feeling and experiencing. Check in regularly with kids by asking open-ended questions about how they are dealing with their loss.
4. Little Things Help.
Children find comfort in small gestures that adults may overlook. Some things that may help children include going to the park, spending time with pets, being with family, looking at pictures of the loved one who has passed, talking to their stuffed animals, getting a pat on the back and simply being told that everything is going to be okay.
5. Condolence is a balancing act.
In Children and Grief, all of the children interviewed expressed the importance of having others acknowledge the passing of their loved one. Although they want you to offer condolence, understand that they may not feel like talking about it at that time. But don’t give up! Keep asking how they are doing. Kids like to have people regularly check in on them.
6. Ask children what they believe happens after a person dies.
What do children believe happens when someone dies? Have them draw a picture of where they think their loved one is now. What is he/she doing? Support their beliefs by letting them know there are many beliefs about life after death.
7. Continue to celebrate and remember the loved one who has died.
To help children work though grief, create a ritual/tradition to celebrate and remember a loved one. Have children come up with a way to celebrate the birthday of their loved one. Create a picture collage or any artwork to remind them of their loved one. Kids also like to decorate objects with things that remind them of the person who has passed. Let kids be creative by coming up with their own unique ways to celebrate their loved one.
8. A shift in perspective can help the healing process.
Julia, 9, has learned it is a gift to have her family members who are still alive. Sequoia, 11, has learned she can get through anything after what she has gone through. Alexander, 14, has learned the more he is sad, the stronger he is going to be for others when they lose a loved one. What has your child learned from experiencing grief?
9. Help children stay focused on their dreams for the future.
Ask children, “What are your hopes and dreams?” Having children focus on their hopes and dreams lets them know their life is much more than the grief they are experiencing. This positively affects self-esteem while instilling confidence and creating a purpose in life.
10. I AM: Ask children to define who they are.
Have children answer the following questions. What are some of your strengths? What do you love? What brings you joy? What are some words that describe who you are? Have them define themselves using “I Am” statements. Post somewhere visible so they are often reminded of who they are.