Has your child been experiencing any of the following after the death of a loved one?
Frequent crying spells
Isolating self from others
Denying the death
Irritability and anger
Sudden fear of death/dying
Guilt about the death/feeling it is their fault
Losing a friend, family member, or loved one is painful for people of all ages. This grief can be especially hard for children, who might be learning about death for the first time or do not completely understand what it means. Everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time, and the same can be said for children. Depending on the relationship with the deceased, children will react in different ways and levels of severity.
You might notice that your child is taking a long time to accept the death of a loved one, or is denying that the person is gone. It is also common for children to suddenly become afraid of death or believe they will die too. It can be overwhelming as a parent to help your child through grief, but therapy can help.
How can I help my child through grief?
When people are grieving, we do not try to help them “get over ” this loss, but adapt to it in a healthy way. Your child will grieve in their own way, and might go through stages of grief that are more difficult than others. The best thing a parent or caregiver can do for a grieving child is be honest with them about the death and what it means. Protecting a child from knowing about death will only make their healing more difficult. It is best to be patient with your child and accept the feelings they are experiencing with this loss.
How can therapy help my child grieve?
Therapy can help create space for your child to verbally process the death and ask any questions they may have to get closure. Your therapist can assist your child in grieving and processing in the way that is best for them. Whether your child needs to talk about the deceased person, or express their grief through art and play, a therapist can help educate your child about grief and give them the space to adjust to this event that will have a lifelong impact. Your child’s therapist might ask them about favorite memories with the loved one, or teach your child to respond to anger in a healthy way in addition to helping them create “tools” to use when experiencing grief symptoms. A therapist can help create a treatment plan that is unique to your child’s grief, and will include you, the parents, in this process in order to honor your afterlife beliefs as well as the unique details of the loss. Equipping you with the tools to support your child outside of therapy is a key part of therapy when children attend counseling.