For anyone who has experienced a loss, the feelings of grief, sadness, anger and possibly even guilt can be overwhelming as we try to process the death of a loved one. This pain is a natural part of the healing process and is necessary to go through in order to fully gain closure and acceptance of the loss of a beloved friend or relative. However, what can you do for a child who is suffering from the loss of a family member or close friend? Here’s how you can help a grieving child to understand and process the various stages of grief so that he or she can heal completely and get back to enjoying childhood.
Understand the Stages of Grief
As you may have heard, grief comes in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Helping a child to cope with each stage as it arises can be tough, but it will ultimately be what he or she needs most in order to heal. Let the child express his or her feelings without censorship or scolding- if a child needs to punch a pillow to get some of the anger out of her system, let her. If a child needs to pretend his loved one isn’t really gone, let him. By allowing children to act on these stages of grief, you are helping them to transition through the process until they are finally able to accept their loss and move on.
Remind the Child That It’s OK to Be Happy…or Sad
When a child has experienced the loss of someone very close, such as a parent, he or she may feel guilty for laughing at a funny joke, playing outside with friends or doing something else that brings him or her joy. It is essential to let the child know that it is completely fine to still find happiness in life after the death of a loved one. In fact, make sure the child remembers how happy it made his or her departed friend or family member when he or she was happy or laughing. This can help mitigate any feelings of guilt and get the child back to his or her natural state of happiness.
On the other hand, if a child has no interest in any of his or her usual activities and seems unable to get out of the depression resulting from the loss, remind him or her that it is OK to feel sad. Let the child know you are there if he or she feels like talking, but also let him or her know that it is also fine to be alone. If depression symptoms last for what seems like an unusual period of time, or if the child’s depression worsens, it is wise to enlist the help of a psychologist, psychotherapist or other trained mental health professional.
Share Memories of the Departed Loved One
Though it might seem counterintuitive, talking about a beloved family member or friend who has died may be just what a grieving child needs most. Let the child know that you will always be there to share photographs, funny stories, and memories of the departed loved one. This can make a child feel like their beloved relative or friend is never very far away. It may be beneficial to make a photo album together chronicling the life of the departed family member or friend so that the child can look at it whenever he or she begins to feel sad. This can bring closure to a very painful loss while also keeping the memory of the beloved relative or friend alive.
Ben Wolf is highly experienced in helping children and adults cope with the loss of a loved one. With years of expertise with child grief counseling, Ben Wolf can help the child in your life process the death of a loved one in a healthy and beneficial way. If you live in or around St. Paul, MN and feel as though you or a child in your life needs help getting through the grieving process, reach out to Ben Wolf and schedule a therapy session to talk about your grief. Our staff of caring professionals is here to answer any questions you may have. Call Ben Wolf today at 612-643-1920 to find the healing and hope you need following a major loss of a loved one.