Death and grief are inevitable parts of life, but most parents hope that their children won’t have to experience these emotions until they are fully grown. Unfortunately, as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, many families have had to have difficult conversations about loss and trauma. If you have recently lost a loved one, these tactics may help you provide support and comfort to the young ones in your life.
Explain Honestly and Simply
Children aren’t always mentally prepared to handle difficult concepts, but that doesn’t mean that they should have the truth hidden from them. If someone in their family dies, it’s important to explain what happened as honestly as possible while still using language that the child can understand.
One of the biggest mistakes that many parents make is mincing words around the death of a family member. Phrases like “moved on” or “passed away” may make the adults feel better, but they tend to leave children incredibly confused. Instead, tell the child that someone has died; then, explain to them what dying is and that the person won’t be returning to their life.
Be Prepared for Negative Emotions
Grieving is a skill that needs to be taught. A child who has never experienced loss before might go through anything from sorrow to anger to shock. Even if your child doesn’t react right away, you can expect to see changes in their behavior as they begin to process the news.
No matter what emotions your child has regarding the loss, be accepting, understanding, and willing to talk. Understand that you will need to guide your child through the process of channeling their emotions in a healthy way that will prepare them for similar situations in the future.
Prepare for Your Own Grief
If a family member dies, the children will not be the only ones grieving. You should accept that your own turbulent emotions might impede your ability to manage your duties as a parent; in the same way, the grief is also likely to affect your spouse. However, even if the grief has made your daily life difficult, it’s important to make sure that your child doesn’t try to take the responsibility of cheering the family up onto themselves.
Every family handles mourning differently. Cultural traditions such as burning candles or dressing in black may be helpful because they show a division between grieving and normal life. If both parents are struggling greatly with the loss, asking friends and family members to help take care of the house may also be a good idea.
As the aftermath of the death calms down, remember that grieving is not a speedy process. A child who goes quiet after a death may break down into tears months or even years later. Be patient with your kids, and let them know that your love and affection is available whenever they need.