Loss is difficult for all of us. When we lose someone that we love, it’s hard to understand, we feel a conflicting range of emotions, and it can be hard to just carry on with “normal” life. For children, it can be even harder which is why supporting children through loss as best you can is so important.
Touch wood and all of that, my two haven’t be touched by a bereavement yet. It is bound to happen at some point and as these things usually happen without notice we’ve had to talk between ourselves as parents about how we will handle such a situation.
Losing someone that you love is horrible, but at least as adults, we’re able to comprehend what has happened. For kids, the idea of someone never coming back can be hard to understand. Unfortunately, however, it’s an unavoidable thing. If you are lucky, your child’s first loss will happen when they are a little older and able to understand better, but there’s never going to be a good time. Here are some tips to help you help them at such a difficult time.
Supporting Children Through Loss: Use Simple Words
When talking about death, try not to overcomplicate things. You might have a lot of questions yourself, and you might spend time trying to understand what has happened, but your children don’t need these added burdens. Explain that someone has passed away and that you won’t be able to see them anymore. If you can, try to relate it to things that they do understand, perhaps something that they might have seen on TV, or the death of a family pet.
Talk About Your Own Feelings
Your child might never have experienced any emotions like these, or sadness on this level. They can find it confusing, and wonder if what they are feeling is right. Bottling up your own feelings, and hiding your sadness will only make things worse.
Don’t feel like you have to be strong for them. It’s actually more helpful to show them how you feel when supporting children through loss. Talk about how you grieve, and the things that you feel, rant if you need to. But also spend time remembering the person together. Talk about them, share stories and memories and make sure they know that this is ok. Death doesn’t have to mean that that person can’t still be a part of our lives. That’s how we are choosing to look at someone special passing on.
Talk About the Next Steps
Whether you want your child to attend the funeral is up to you. Your decision should be based on their age, how much they understand, and their own feelings about it. Either way, it’s a good idea to talk about the funeral, and what happens next. Tell them about headstones and funeral traditions. Explain what happens and what it means. Give them an idea of what different people believe, as well as your own beliefs, without forcing any upon them.
It’s also a good idea to talk about the wake (if this is something that your family is likely to do). Tell them that friends and family come together to share their memories and celebrate the life of the lost. Let them know that many people find this comforting, and it can be the start of feeling better. Tell them that it is ok to be happy and to laugh if they want to.
Answer Their Questions
Your child is bound to have a lot of questions. Be honest with them and answer what you can. If they ask something that you don’t know, or about something that you don’t believe, ask if they want to research together.
We’ve looked at supporting children through loss as a topic a fair bit and these are the important points that stand out to us too. Hopefully none of us will have to use any of these methods any time soon.