Grieving Children – Surviving the Loss of a Parent

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The recent deaths of beloved celebrities shocked and saddened people around the world. A celebrity’s death captures the news media and commands attention for weeks after. While the immediate survivors, family and close friends, grapple with the pain of grief and loss, attention and consideration are immediately given to the more practical aspects of a death in the family. The contents of the will becomes the focal point of attention and discussion. What are the two questions most asked?

·        Who are the beneficiaries of the estate?

·        Who will take care of the children?

All children who lose a parent suffer the same immediate problems of bereavement: deep feelings of abandonment and many unanswered questions. And whether that parent was a celebrity or not, the trauma is the same. A beloved mom or dad is suddenly gone, a person necessary to the child’s well being is missing, and their world will never be the same.

A child’s grief is much the same as an adult’s. There is incredible sadness, bewilderment, anger, and loneliness for that person who is missing. But children can’t always express these feelings. Very young children simply lack the verbal skills to say how they feel. Older children, teenagers in particular, often feel uncomfortable verbalizing their feelings. They may talk to their peers, but shut out the adults in their lives.

These common issues can and should be addressed by the adults in the child’s life. There certainly are no easy answers, but some helpful tips can give the surviving parent or other caring adults insightful ideas for extending comfort and security to these children.

  • Assure the child that s/he will be taken care of. Give names of people and places and, if problems arise, let the child know that this is your top priority.
  • Tell the child truthfully about the deceased parent’s death. Keep it simple. The child should have a clear idea of what happened.
  • Ask the child about his feelings and express your own. “I feel sad and a little confused.” Encourage openness.
  • Include the child in the ongoing plans for funeral, reviewal, shiva, or memorial services. Make sure the child understands what will take place.
  • Find ways to help the child express her grief, such as a memory book, small legacy, writing a letter, or planting a tree or garden.

Unresolved grief causes problems for years if immediate loss is not addressed. True healing takes time and occurs within a framework of security, honesty, and a nurturing environment. I wish you well.

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