Tips for Helping Your Children Grieve
In the Western world, death is one of the last taboos. Death has become so sterile … so unspeakable … so frightful … so improper … that we assume we MUST protect the innocent souls from it’s darkness. In many parental minds, those “innocent souls” who need the most protection are our children.
Death, though, isn’t something that we CAN protect our children from. It is a part of life. A part of life that we can either ignore, or we can learn to find the life that exists in death.
Here are a few helpful tips that I’ve gathered from three separate Counseling journals about how to help your children grieve:
- When death happens, have a close relative, preferable a parent, tell the child about it immediately.
- Understand that children do indeed grieve, can comprehend loss and experience grief processes.
- Stay close to the child, giving them physical affection.
- Let the child see you grieve; it gives them permission to grieve on their own. “It will help the child to see the remaining parent, friends and relatives grieve. Grief shared is grief diminished…if everyone acts stoically around the child, he or she will be confused by the incongruity. If children get verbal or nonverbal cues that mourning is unacceptable, they cannot address the mourning task.”
- Avoid euphemisms such as, “passed on,” “gone away,” “departed”. In and of itself, the concept of death is difficult enough for a child to understand; using euphemisms will only add to the difficulty.
- Advise the child to attend the funeral, but do not force him or her to go.
- Gently help the child grasp the concept of death. Avoid vague explanations to the child’s questions, but answer each question as honestly as possible.
- Keep other stressing situations, such as moving or changing schools to a minimum; after the ceremonies, continue child’s regular routines.
- Be honest with the child about the depth of the pain he or she will feel. “You may say, ‘this is the most awful thing could happen to you.’ Contrary to popular belief, minimizing the grief does not help.
Based on the above tips, how would you answer the question, “Should I bring my child to a funeral?”