Losing a parent, sibling, friend, or family member can be devastating for children. They can feel a range of emotions, from loneliness to guilt, to confusion or anger. Sometimes the feelings are overwhelming or they are unsure if they have permission to express them. Because their brains are still developing, putting words to a child’s experience, and creating an inviting space for them to openly express themselves, can help them understand what is happening inside, especially if it is something they have never felt before. They learn that it is normal to feel those things and you are there for support. In those moments, here are some ways to help:
Be with them when they are sad.
Don’t try to fix it.
Find moments to connect.
Help name the emotion they are experiencing.
Offer stories as a way to integrate information.
Educate when possible.
Offer healthy ways to express anger when it comes up.
If nothing else, just hang out together.
Slow schedules and routines down.
Talk about ways they can tell their friends.
“Yes” or “no” works as an answer sometimes.
Be honest when you can.
Normalize death, dying and loss.
Ask for their ideas about different ways to celebrate the holidays.
Find a new art project together.
Try a new sport together.
Create new rituals together.
Make art projects and picture collages together.
Visit some place new.
Assure them that you will be around for a long time.
Have fun and laugh together when the moments present themselves.
Talk with them through dolls, stuffed animals, or puppets.
Read children’s book about loss together.
Look at pictures together.
Watch movies together.
Make a loved one’s favorite meal together.