Chapter 6: Supporting children in their grief
Supporting grieving children after a death
I try my best to answer my son’s questions and to provide reassurance. I’m glad he’s asking about things, even though it is sometimes hard to know how to answer or what to say.
I know my children are grieving too. It’s sometimes hard to have the right words, but I let them know that they can come and speak with me whenever they want or need to. I do my best to answer their questions and to listen even though I’m grieving too.
It is hard to witness the grief of your children. Your may want to protect them from the hard things in life, but in reality, the best way to support them is through open communication. You may feel hesitant to talk to them about death or worry that talking about it might cause distress. Children seem to do better when they are provided with clear and honest information that is tailored to their maturity and personality.
Supporting grieving children can be hard when you are in the midst of your own grief. You may be afraid that it will be too hard for them to see your feelings, but children can be confused if they don’t see an emotional response in the adults around them. Children might also hesitate to share feelings and to ask questions because they fear upsetting you.
Children are both curious and intuitive. They can sense when something significant is happening in their environment, especially when it involves you. Below are three important reasons to include children by giving them age-appropriate information. Roll your mouse over each box to see more.
They may think they are responsible for your sadness.
They may try to be especially well-behaved and helpful, or act happy, thinking this will make you “all better.”
They may internalize their emotions so that you are unaware.
It is likely that they will worry, perhaps in silence, about what has happened.
They may become fearful.
They may imagine something worse than the reality or fear that you will die.
Although you may also be grieving, you need to find the time and space to support your children. This can be challenging, but also rewarding.
It’s important that children understand and believe that you are there for them. They will also learn that, when things are difficult, there is value in sharing emotions, asking for support, and learning how to support others. This can help them develop the resilience they will need throughout their lives.