When a child loses a parent, their whole world is shaken. Before they experience that kind of loss, they most likely feel safe in the world knowing that they’re loved, protected and cared for. A parent can represent that pillar of strength for them.
So when they lose a parent, children can start to feel unsafe in the world, which is why they need to know that someone still has their best interests at heart. They may be feeling an overwhelming mix of emotions that they don’t know what to do with or how to express and what they need is to feel safe again.
Here are some tangible ways to help a child cope after they lose a parent.
Let Them Be Mad or Sad
Children are still learning how to express themselves and when they experience a traumatic event, like the loss of a parent, everything can feel like it’s on overdrive.
For example, a manageable temper tantrum can turn into something completely different when children don’t know how to express themselves.
Help them find healthy outlets and ways to share how they feel because they can’t keep all of those feelings bottled up inside. And be present with them, so they know that you’re there when they need you.
It’s also okay to express that you’re sad over the loss because it will show them that they’re not alone in what they’re feeling.
Give Them Time and Space
You don’t want to rush anyone’s grieving process, especially the grieving process of a child. Grief recovery is not something that you can put a timeline on.
Give them the time they need to express their emotions comfortably. And while space is important, it’s also good for children to know that their lives aren’t going to be changed even more and that they’ll still have consistency. If they want to do their day-to-day activities, give them that opportunity. It can help create stability, a sense of normalcy and allow them to be children and not have to grow up so fast.
More than anything, children need to know that someone is still going to be there for them. They need that reassurance. It’s also essential for them to know that they can ask questions and talk about what happened.
They may be carrying around worry or doubt that they don’t know how to communicate. Or they might be wondering if they did something wrong and don’t understand why they lost someone they loved. It’s important to talk about these topics, help them release any negative thoughts, and remind them that they’re loved. Because while everything else may feel out of control for them, having someone in their corner to be a steady presence for them will help.
Create a Support System
Everyone needs help, especially when grieving. When you’re helping a child cope with the loss of a parent, there are no rules to follow. You try what works and help them cope as best as you can. But sometimes, children may need extra support to open up and talk about what they’re feeling or learn how to express their emotions in a healthy way. It’s okay to seek professional help and guidance because no one is meant to deal with grief on their own.
Grief counseling works because it’s talking with a professionally trained counselor who specializes in grief and loss. And children should get the support they need sooner rather than later, as it will help them discover the right strategies for them to cope and move through grief.
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