How to deal with childhood grief and loss

How to deal with childhood grief and loss

People process grief in different ways. If your caregiver role has ended due to the death of the person in your care, it’s understandable to feel grief, especially if that person was close to you and your family.

Childhood traumatic grief usually lasts longer than adult grief and requires continual support and monitoring.

For a grieving child, like anyone, grief is an individual process.

The way children experience grief will depend largely on their age and/or developmental stage, the nature of their relationship with the person who died, and the circumstances of the death.

While children do experience common stages of grief, they may express their feelings differently than adults.

Children may not show their feelings about grief as openly as adults. They are often able to continue their usual activities even though they may have feelings of anger, and fears of abandonment and death.

Their grief may appear to come and go and may seem brief; however, childhood traumatic grief usually lasts longer than adult grief and requires continual support and monitoring. Childhood grief may also resurface as they continue to grow and develop.

Childhood grief and loss may be shown through behaviour extremes, such as acting very passive or very aggressive.

Understanding children’s grief

Did you know that there are different types of grief? Our article, Different Types Of Grief And Loss describes the common types of grief you may face as a caregiver, but is not limited to caregiving. As a parent, you can support your child through the grieving process by understanding the type of grief they are going through.

How to help a grieving child

  • Encourage your grieving child to ask questions and be prepared to give honest and simple answers.
  • Speak at a language level the child can understand.
  • Remember to listen and try to understand what is being asked, and also, what is not being asked.
  • Be approachable and non-judgemental. A grieving child should feel that they are free to express their thoughts or questions.
  • Be patient.
  • Share your feelings and encourage your child to be open about theirs. You are their role model.
  • Discuss the cause of death at a level your children can understand and emphasize that they were in no way responsible.
  • Explain the funeral rituals and let the grieving child decide how they will participate. Do not insist they do anything that is not comfortable for them.

Allow children to grieve

Grief and loss are normal, healthy processes. Allowing children to experience their grief helps them through the process.

Sometimes children may experience complicated grief, such as denial of death, anger that does not resolve, social withdrawal or regression. Complicated grief in childhood needs to be addressed immediately and they should be referred to someone who may be able to help such as a family physician, social worker, or grief counselor.

It may help to talk to a professional counsellor who has the knowledge and experience needed to help you deal with grief, whether it’s your own or a grieving child.

An Elizz Caregiver Coach can help you navigate the complex challenges you face and work with you to establish a simple, personalized, and detailed caregiving plan to help you deal with your own grief or childhood grief and loss.

At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.

You might also like our Elizz article on How to Find a Grief Support Group.




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