This week, 15th to 21st November 2019, is Children’s Grief Awareness Week. Here in the UK we live in a society where we do not comfortably speak about death and loss. We often don’t know what to say to each other as adults and many of us struggle to know how to communicate with our children.
Children learn how to deal with loss by watching what their parents and other adults around them do. With this in mind, what are you teaching your children or those children that you care for about coping with grief?
While working through her grief with me, one of my clients came to realise that she had been putting on a brave face since the death of a family member. She had been told by well meaning friends and relatives that she needed to be strong for her children. As a result, she had tried very hard to be strong. She hid her grief and didn’t cry in front of her children. She did this for over a year before realising that she was stuck and that she was beginning to feel numb. Through her work with me using the Grief Recovery Method she found the space and tools she needed to start expressing her feelings of grief and loss more openly. Soon she was able to share with her children how sad she felt about the family member dying and how much she missed them. She was, in fact, teaching her children a healthy way to express their own sadness at the loss. She was demonstrating that grief is a normal and natural reaction and that it’s ok to feel sad.
Of course, bereavement isn’t the only loss that a child might encounter. A child can feel grief around the divorce of parents, family estrangement, the death of a pet, moving to a new house or school, being bullied and these are just a few examples.
Another client that I was working with had moved to a new house in the past. Her child was around 3 at the time and due to the move, they had to give the family cat away. Trying to spare her child’s feelings she said that the cat had gone to stay with someone for a while. Now her child was 5 and they were still asking when the cat was going to come back home. My client worked through the ‘Helping Children With Loss Programme’ and discovered a set of tools to use to help her child with the feelings of loss they still held around the cat. She was able to tell the emotional truth that the cat was not coming back and was able to help her child say ‘goodbye’ to the cat and the pain they felt around the loss.
If you want to support children with grief and loss:
- Listen with your heart and allow your child to express their emotions without judgement
- Go first, by telling the truth about your own grief and how it feels, it will help your child to feel safe about opening up to you
- Be patient, don’t try and force them to talk
- If you have more than one child, bear in mind that each will have their own unique and individual way of reacting
- Try not to say “Don’t feel sad”, “Don’t cry”. Children need to be allowed to feel sad
- Acknowledge how they are feeling without trying to fix it
How do you feel when a child asks you questions about loss or grief? Do you get that sinking feeling and struggle to find the right words? Do you tell the emotional truth? Or do you try and change the subject?
If you found this blog of interest and would like to know more about the ‘Helping Children With Loss Programme’ get in touch with me and we can have a chat.