January 23, 2021
There’s nothing more heartbreaking than when a young child loses a parent.
For the surviving parent, who must help their child navigate grief while also going through their own season of mourning, it can be an especially challenging circumstance.
In fact, many parents believe that their primary role is to protect their child from feelings of intense sadness, and to project an image of strength; as such, they try to keep their grief private. Actually, it can be healthy for your child to see you shed tears or mourn in some other way. It helps them to understand that what they are going through is normal and that it’s okay for them to express their sadness in whatever way is natural to them.
Something else that some parents do is try to avoid the topic of grief, leaving it as the unmentioned elephant in the room. Again, this inclination comes from a good place, but may actually be counterproductive. If your child feels like they cannot talk about death or grief, the effect can be isolating. Always be ready to ask questions and have conversations, but let the child set the tone; if they’re not yet ready to talk, there’s no need to force it.
More than anything, it matters that you listen and that you reassure your child that you love them and are going to take care of them. Journey with them through stages of grieving, understanding that the death of a parent is never anything you “get over.” At the same time, try to create a sense of normalcy; maintain as many of your regular rituals and activities as possible, helping your child see that even in grief, there are still things to feel joyful about.
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