In our last episode, I spoke with author Georgia Schaffer about what healthy grieving looks like for our kids. In the second part of our conversation we’re digging into how to talk to kids about loss and answering some of the questions we hear most like is it okay to use the word “death” with my kids? Should I have my children attend the funeral of a loved one? And is it okay to keep my kid out of school while they grieve? We also offer some practical suggestions of how you can help grieving families.
Key points from our conversation:
😢 When deciding how to tell your child about the death of a person or pet, consider what their experience has been with loss to this point and how the death occurred. Was it sudden or did you know it was imminent?
💀It’s okay to use the word “death” when speaking to your kids. Young children often don’t understand what “passed away” means. The more direct you can be, the better.
🐶 It’s not a good idea to replace a pet to hide a loss. The death of a pet is sometimes the first opportunity to prepare your kids with healthy mechanisms to deal with loss in the future.
💬Ask your children how they want to grieve. It could be a memorial service, drawing a picture, or writing a letter. There is no one way to grieve, it’s dependent on personalities. Just provide the child a chance to talk about what they experienced and allow them to work through it.
⛔ The fact that a person died is public knowledge, but how they died isn’t always for everyone. We need to be respectful of that. It’s okay to not know. Be careful not to overstate things.
🎒 If someone in the family dies it’s okay to keep your kid out of school, but not too long. Being a little busy is good to help you not get lost in the pain, but moving past the suffering too fast can stunt the grieving process.
⚰️ Talk to your kids about attending the memorial service of a loved one. If they’re not ready for a funeral, perhaps they might want to attend the viewing, graveside service, or process in a different way.
🗣️Some kids process verbally and need to talk about a loss, others only want to share a few words about what they’re feeling. If they do talk, help them feel heard by practicing reflective listening.
💕Some practical things you can do for grieving families include babysitting, getting the kids something off their wish list, giving money to be used toward food delivery services, and checking in on significant dates.
✨When kids lose a parent at a young age people think they’ll have trauma forever, but that child understands loss in a way others can’t. It helps them develop empathy and compassion the average person wouldn’t as well as equips them with a well-developed emotional vocabulary and resilience.
🧠 If a child is acting out or shutting down, get them a mental health check-up with a professional.
✝️ There is a time to grieve and a time to dance. Grief is hard, but there’s a lot of love that happens in that season. And you can bring that light to others when they grieve. We have hope in Christ that we’ll see them again.
⚱️ Think ahead about how you will handle loss. Talk about grief with your children before it happens. Ask what grief means to them. Planning isn’t being morbid, it’s being real.
💛 If you’re experiencing loss, allow others to love you well. If you can’t accept it, let others love your children.
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