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How to Help Children Grieve the Death of a Parent

Losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. Just about the only thing worse is for a child to lose a parent. Children lack the emotional maturity to deal with death in the way adults do. Younger children may not even understand exactly what death means. The adults left in their lives need to be there for them, though knowing how to help can be difficult.

Listen

One of the most important things to do is listen to the child. They may want to ask questions. The questions should be heard, and answered to the best of your ability. If the answer isn’t known, admit it and try to find the right answer. It’s important to keep the child’s age in mind and answer appropriately, but keep it real. This isn’t the time for avoiding difficult topics or making up “soft” answers to tough questions.

Be There

Children need time to grieve. Not only that, but their patterns of grief differ from adults. They may seem fine for a week, but then have a really bad night as they try to process their loss. The goal is to be there for the child as long as they need it.

Let Them See You Cry

Part of being there is to be there in your grief as well. One of the best ways to let them know their feelings are OK is to show your feelings to them. Let them see you go through the process of grieving and accepting the loss. Admit to them that it’s never really forgotten, that life is different from this point on. Emotions don’t work on a specific timetable, and they should know that it’s normal to feel fine one minute, in pain the next, and angry a little after that.

Bring in Outside Help with Grief Counseling

Get in touch with a child therapist or grief counselor. Encourage the child to talk to them about their pain even more freely than they talk to you about it. Getting professional help is nothing to be ashamed of, and always a good idea. In Honolulu East West Therapy offers grief counseling, and has experience working with children. Contact them today at (213) 880-8262 for an initial appointment.