#1 – Grieving children want to be told the truth.
• Tell grieving children the truth with these considerations in mind:
- The age of the child
- The maturity level of the child
- The circumstances surrounding the death
- Answer questions as honestly as you can
#2 – Grieving children want to be reassured that there will always be someone to take care of them.
• Grieving children spend a lot of time worrying about another person in their life who might die.
• To help alleviate this fear, it’s important to reassure them that there will always be someone in their life who will take care of them.
• Enlist the aid of their parent or caregiver to determine a plan for the children. Let the children know what the plan is.
#3 – Grieving children want you to know that their grief is long lasting.
• Children will grieve the person who died for the rest of their life.
• Grieving kids don’t “just get over it”.
• They will often be bewildered when other people in their life have seemed to move on.
• Their grief changes over time as they grow and change over time.
#4 – Children often cope with grief and loss through play.
• Children grieve through play.
• Typically, they cannot sustain prolonged grief.
• Children use play as a way to cope with their grief and to take a break from the grief.
#5 – Grieving children want you to know that they will always miss the person who died.
• People die, but love doesn’t die.
• Grieving children will miss the person who died for as long as they live.
#6 – Often, grieving children want to share their story and talk about the person who died.
• Having an opportunity to tell his or her story is often beneficial to a child’s healing process.
• Sharing memories about the person who died is also very important.
• Grieving children don’t want to forget the person who died – they are also worried that others will forget their person.
#7 – Every child grieves differently.
• Every child has his or her own grief journey and own way of grieving.
• Some children might be more expressive with their grief.
• Some children might keep it all in.
• Siblings grieve differently.
• Just because children come from the same family doesn’t mean that their grief will be the same.
• It is important to honor each child’s story, even if it is different than his or her sibling’s story.
#8 – Grieving children often feel guilty.
• Grieving children will often feel pangs of guilt.
• Even if the guilt is not justified and has no basis in reality.
#9 – Even though I might be acting out, what I’m really feeling is intense emotions of grief.
• Grieving children frequently feel sad, angry, confused, or scared.
• Since they might not know how to express all of these emotions, they often end up acting out instead.
#10 - If you’re not sure what a grieving child wants, just ask him!
• When in doubt, ask a grieving child how you can help.
• Check in with the child – do they want to talk about the person who died? Maybe not.
• Expect myriad answers.
• Do they want to write about their grief or do some other activity to express their grief?
• What do they need?
You can help grieving children by:
• Really hearing them when you’re listening
• Following their lead
• Validating their feelings
• Answering their questions
• Seeking out additional resources, as needed
Posted by Pamela Gabbay, EdD, FT