Grief. Sadness. Loss.These are heavy emotions to be burdened with.
As an adult, we know that grief is an emotion and we know there are the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. We are mature enough in most cases to seek counselling and buy books about grief to get us through. We know it can help to speak about our loved one and know to appreciate the memories made.
These feelings of grief, sadness and loss are every bit as difficult to comprehend when lived by a child. It is of utmost importance that the child has hope. Hope for a happy life and hope of a happy future.
Explain to them that grief is an emotion; tell them that the feelings they have now aren’t their forever feelings; over time they will lesson. In most cases, the family of the child grieving are feeling the same emotions themselves and may find it difficult to help, and so the following ideas should be just as cathartic for the adult as for the little one.
- Opening the lines of communication is always a great start. Talking about the departed loved one, no matter how hard it is to do, is a big step forward in the grieving process. If the child can learn to get everything off their chest and know that they can speak about them, bottling their emotions won’t be an issue. This single lesson in communication will bide them well throughout their life. (I am a emotional bottler, I’m sure this is very difficult for my dear husband).
- Give the child special ways to remember their loved one. Talk about the music their loved one listened to, or their favourite food. The funny quirks they had or their lucky numbers.
- The more they can remember the better. Write them down or create a memory book together. Collect or draw pictures, cut out from magazines or paste photos. What a special book this will become to the young child.
- There are many ways people choose to feel their loved ones are still around them. Talk about these ways. White feathers are often seen as a message from the departed, especially when found in strange places, like inside the house on in a car. Perhaps a particularly beautiful rainbow will appear in the sky, or maybe the clouds will be shaped in the image of a love heart. Their loved one’s favourite song may come on the radio at the same time of thinking of them. In fact, signs such as these could bring comfort to somebody experiencing grief and loss, no matter their age.
My father passed away when I was a young girl of seven and over the years I have discovered many different ways to remember him each and every day. In fact, on my wedding day I looked to the sky above me by chance and it was the single most beautiful sign that he was with me on this special day. The stunning morning sunrise was hues of all colours from purple to orange and yellow. This sunrise was joined by a beautiful rainbow and a low half moon. I was so taken aback by this beauty that I instinctively knew it was from him.
The final and perhaps most important message to give a child grieving is that it is OK.
It is most certainly OK to smile and be happy again.
It is OK to look forward to things and places and people.
For this is what life is about isn’t it? Creating special memories and spending time with the people we love.