Rise and Shine shared in their newsletter that A recent study estimated that 140,000 children in the United States have experienced the death of a parent or grandparent caregiver due to COVID-19 or other pandemic-related causes. Because of this, the upcoming holidays may be difficult for many children and their families. Losing a parent or other primary caregiver is one of the most stressful things that can happen in a child’s life, putting them at risk for depression and post-traumatic stress. Here’s some advice for helping children deal with their grief.
What does grief look like?
Death can trigger many feelings, such as sadness, disbelief, shock, fear, and even anger. There is no “right” or “normal” way a child should experience their grief — every child will differ in what they feel in response to death.
For example, sometimes younger children may appear sad and talk about missing the person who passed away. Other times they may act out. And other times, they may play and interact with friends and do their usual activities as though nothing has happened. As a result of measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19, they may also grieve over the loss of routines such as going to school and playing with friends.
Adolescents also experience grief in different ways. They may have significant changes in their sleep patterns, isolate themselves more, become easily irritated or frustrated, and withdraw from friends and activities. They may also be angry and hide their sadness.
How to support a child who is experiencing grief
To help with the grieving process, children should be provided with essential facts about the death and have an option to ask questions as often as they want. Younger children may need some explanation about what death means, and you should also use the terms “dead” or “died” instead of “passed” in order to avoid confusion.
For most children, all that is needed is support from loved ones such as family and friends while they experience the sadness and longing that comes from death. As much as you want to protect them from the pain of loss, it’s important for children to experience these emotions in order to cope. The most significant thing you can do is to allow them to feel what they are feeling and provide a chance to talk about the person who died and their feelings about death.