One of the hardest parts of life is finding a way to cope with difficult situations, like the death of someone we love deeply. As adults, we learn over time just what helps us get through the difficult times and how to handle our emotions in a way that works for our individual needs, but those aren’t ingrained in us from birth.
Healthy coping mechanisms aren’t inherent, they’re taught through the example of those around us, and it is our responsibility as parents to pass that along to our children.
Help your child cope with grief in a healthy way, and give them the tools to express their emotions, verbalize their needs, and find comfort in dark times, something they’ll take with them as they grow. Here are a few ways you can assist your child through the grieving process.
The best cure for grief, even in adults, is feeling comfort from a loved one. Whether it be the pain of losing a family member or a beloved pet, a warm embrace from a parent and words of affirmation that things will be okay are the best things one can do when helping a child get through a difficult time.
It may seem counterproductive, but a great way to cope after the loss of a loved one is to continue telling stories about times spent together. Let your child know that sharing happy memories and holding them close to your heart does not have to be a painful reminder of something lost, but a happy reminder of something we were lucky enough to have.
It can be tempting to sugarcoat things as a way to preserve a child’s feelings during a time of grief, however this solution will only be temporary and cause more pain down the road. It is easier to navigate difficult situations, both as a child and as a parent, with openness and honesty.
Clearly and concisely explain what just happened and allow room for questions, using simple words to help them understand as best as possible. Answer their questions truthfully, and remember, it’s okay to cry in front of your child, as you are likely grieving too. Show them by example that there is no shame in expressing yourself in whatever way feels natural.
Find Creative Outlets
One of the best methods for coping with grief in both children and adults is to find creative outlet as a means of expressing emotion. Drawing pictures of a lost loved one together, making a collage of old pictures to remember them, or singing songs that remind you of happy times together are great ways to turn grief into a beautiful, memorable moment together and build healthy habits they can use to cope with difficult situations later in life.
Ask for Help
If you’re unsure how to handle a situation that feels outside your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to ask for support. If you notice your child is suddenly struggling with insomnia, lack of interest in activities, or keeping up grades, you may want to seek out qualified grief counseling experts in your area or talk to your doctor about the right plan of action as you move forward.