For a child, a loss can be anything ranging from minor to tragic: a favorite doll that is lost, a goldfish that died, a move to a new town, a parent’s divorce, or the death of a family member.
(This post contains affiliate links. Find out what that means here.)
The Need to be Heard
Does your child keep talking about what happened? Telling the story over and over again? Asking questions? It may mean he is still processing the loss.
If a child brings up the same issue over and over, it is almost always because his or her feelings have not yet been heard. – John W. James, When Children Grieve
Listen closely. Don’t assume he is dwelling negatively on the loss by trying to be heard.
As humans, part of our healing process involves getting validation for our feelings.
What happens if you don’t listen?
If you don’t listen now, your child may not open up later. He may learn to bury his feelings. It could even lead to behavioral problems. So be willing to listen to his story as many times as he wants to tell it.
Every child is different: some are talkers, and some aren’t. Some love to share, and some don’t. My own son is reserved, and he doesn’t bring up the topic of his dad very often. But he loves it when someone else does. He loves to hear stories and memories from his dad’s childhood, or funny things he used to do. Because I know this, I make sure I mention Jason whenever possible. In this way, I’m encouraging my son to feel free to do the same thing, whenever he feels the need to share.
The Need to be Understood
It is extremely important to acknowledge your child’s feelings.
If he is upset because of a move to a new town: ‘You must miss your friends a lot. I understand that you feel sad.’
If he is dealing with the loss of a beloved pet: ‘I know you will miss Max. I wish he was still here to wag his tail at us. He was a very special dog.’
And when it comes to coping with the loss of a family member, sharing memories and your own feelings helps validate your child’s feelings: ‘I miss Grandma too, and I think about her all the time.’
The Need to be Supported
When you’ve had a really awful day, doesn’t it feel good to get a hug from someone you love?
The same goes for your child. Show your support: use a gentle voice and touch. Give your child a big hug, and a kiss. Your love and patience will help validate your child’s feelings of grief, making the burden a little easier to bear.
If you love, you will grieve. You deserve a hundred opportunities to tell the story of love remembered and a person honored. – Lani Leary, Ph.D., No One Has to Grieve Alone
You can encourage your child to express his grief in whatever way he is most comfortable. It could be through words, tears, song, art, or an activity.
Children need to be heard, understood, and supported. As parents, if we listen closely, acknowledge their feelings, and support them, we can help our children soften their grief, and heal with love.
You may also benefit from: 5 Ted Talks on Grief: Help Your Child Cope With Loss
Share your story here, and be heard.