Helping Children Deal with Death

Someone in your children's circle of loved ones has died. This can be a person or pet. You may also be grieving. So how can you help your children deal with this part of life?

Before you begin to help your children, notice how you feel about what they are going through. Many parents want to shield their children from this experience because it is so intense.

Your fears are normal. Death is a subject that's not easily embraced by our society. Some even say we are in denial about it.

It's not the kind of subject that comes up in every day conversations. Yet I suggest to you that you look at this situation as a golden opportunity to strengthen and deepen your relationship with your children. The bond of love that exists between you and your children can become a healing power during this tender time.

To begin this healing process, first honestly dialogue with them about how you feel about the situation. Get real ! Being authentic with them gives them a sense that they can really trust you. Tell them that death is normal, and every living thing experiences death. Introduce the word "grief" and tell them that grieving is a normal process that everyone experiences in life. Tell them that everyone grieves in their own way and there's no one right way to go through it. Yet we all desire to move through the grieving process so we can feel happy and peaceful again.

Sharing this idea with your children gives them the permission to feel all the deep emotions of grief without thinking that there's something wrong with them. Besides a deep sadness, your children may have feelings of shock, confusion, fear, anger and worry. Remember - all of these emotions are valid! I volunteer in a Child Bereavement Program at a local hospice, and the children repeatedly tell me that what they greatly appreciate the most is an environment where they can freely talk about their feelings of grief with total acceptance.

Naturally, we work with them in many healthy, creative ways to help them express their feelings . You can do the same. Help them to identify each one of these emotions and look for ways to support them in expressing them in healthy ways: artwork, drama, sports, and even video games can be a tool to help children process emotions.

In addition, you can give them the necessary tools to create some sort of special memento or memorial honoring the deceased. This can be as simple as a special poster, a photo album, woodworking project or beaded jewelry to hold a special place in their heart.

Think of their emotions as energy-in-motion, to remind you that children need ways to process and release what's going on inside of them, especially as they grieve. Be patient with them as it may take some time for this to happen. The grieving journey is like a roller coaster ride. At the beginning your children may feel emotional extremes. Eventually the "ride" becomes more stable (fewer and fewer extremes) as emotions are felt and more peacefully dealt with.

The time you take to work with your children during this situation is well worth it. Traveling through the healing process together will create a new, deep bond between you. This is a tremendous blessing for both of you.

If you are interested in more ways to support your children in the grieving process, check out my blog archive and home page at the top of this page.

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Use these blogs to open up a healing dialogue
with anyone experiencing grief.


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