- Amy D. Byrne, LMFT
How To Help Kids Deal With Grief and Loss
It is never easy when someone loses a loved one. As adults, you may be able to find a way to handle it, but children are usually at a loss about how they should deal with the devastating truth that they will no longer see their loved ones. What are the main recommendations to help children and adolescents in the midst of their grief?
The best way to help children cope with grief and loss is not to lie to them. Instead, you should encourage the child to externalize and not internalize their emotions and feelings. Sometimes, you may have the notion of wanting to avoid the feeling of pain or sadness in children, but it is part of life because death and loss is something irreversible for all of us to face. One of the first recommendations is always going to be that, as adults, we have to practice active listening.
Consult with a Specialist
It is ideal to explain to your kids about the concept of death. You can use everyday situations, such as the death of a butterfly or a bird that hits a window. In some cases, children are unable to cope with grief and loss and for adults in charge of telling them the truth, it can be a complex situation to manage. Of course, it is best to consult with specialists such as a therapist or school counselor to help the child with grief and loss.
It is essential that, as adults, you understand that you, too, also have the need to cry, express your feelings and that your children or your young teenager at home can also see that you are suffering. Sometimes you may feel that, as adults, you must repress your emotions, your feelings, because that will make you look stronger for your children. However, that is not the case. The best example you can give your children is always going to be able to express what they are feeling, because then you will be teaching them to express what they feel as well. Therefore, it is OK to express your emotions openly and encourage your children to do the same as it relates to the grief and loss they are facing.
Sign up the entire family to a support group for help and guidance. In the case of loss of loved ones related to minors, it is key to talk about the issue openly and receive support in order to take care of their mental health. The first piece of advice the support group, life coach, therapist, or organization may give is to strengthen each child's support network, i.e. the family, schools and institutions around them.
Get Help From School
One of those institutions is the school, now that the return to face-to-face attendance will have to continue after the loss of a loved one. Many children return to the classroom experiencing one or more grief and loss and it is that place where they spend most of their time and where they will express the manifestations of their grief. That is why it is important that this situation is addressed in conjunction with families. It is best to inform the school and teacher about the situation and ask for help from the child’s school.If all else fails, then it is time to hire a personal therapist to help the children and family cope with this grief and loss.