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How to Help Helping Children Grieve
  • Tell children the truth about what happened, in language they can understand for their age. Answer their questions in a straightforward manner. They often sense when you are not telling them important information. Let children participate in the family sorrow and in grieving rituals. It is an important learning process. Protect the child from imagined guilt, such as, "I was bad – it was my fault." Provide much love and reassurance, especially that you and others will still protect and love them.
  • Reassure the child that he/she will be taken care of, loved, and cherished as before. The greatest fear of the bereaved child is that of being abandoned and deserted.
  • Touch, hold and hug the child. Non-verbal communication is the most powerful and direct way of telling the child that you care.
  • Explain to the child that the parent did not intend to die nor did the parent want to die. The child needs to be assured that his or her parent did not intentionally desert the child.
  • Explain that it was not the child’s fault that the parent died. Young children often believe they possess magic power, and through the power of such thought the child actually brought about their parent’s death. The child may need help to relieve this burden of guilt.
  • Encourage the child to ask questions about anything that is on his or her mind. Do this on many occasions.
  • Answer the child’s questions simply, directly, and honestly. Children are quick to sense deceptions and may come to distrust adults.
  • Allow the child the option of participating in the funeral. Describe the proceedings in detail beforehand. The funeral has an important cultural, religious, and therapeutic function for the family, and the child is a member of that family. Excluding them may make them feel abandoned.
  • Be tolerant. It is normal for a child confronting a major crisis to regress to levels below his or her present level of maturity.
  • Encourage the child to express his or her feelings and thoughts.
  • It is OK to let children see your tears and cry with them in a shared experience.

Helping Children