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Tips on having children cope with the loss of a loved one
This month will mark 3 years since my dad was taken from us. When he passed away our lives drastically changed. It hit us ALL hard, including my 2 children at the time. Nyah was only 2.5 and Kayden was about to turn 1. When my dad passed away, my children were able to see and feel how hard this was for our family, and witnessed all the emotional moments my husband, mom and I had. If you’re going through a difficult time at the moment, having just lost a loved one, then just remember that there are resources like MemorialZen.com to help you through it. Today I am going to give you a few tips I have on helping your children cope with the loss of a loved one. These tips can apply to every type of loss; ranging from a grandparent to a family pet. One important thing to remember is that children grieve in a different way then adults do, so always take that into consideration when dealing with this type of situation.
My oldest daughter Nyah was very close to my dad. Nyah was my dad’s pride and joy, his first grandchild. He loved her to pieces!! At the time Nyah was old enough to understand the general idea of what was going on with my dad, before he passed away. She came with us to the hospital everyday and always saw my dad. She knew something was wrong with him, and she knew he was very sick. She understood why we went to the hospital everyday, and why we blew kisses to him every time.
*photo credits to: Bina Sareen
1. The reason Nyah understood so well was because my husband and I were very open about it. We explained everything we could in a way she would understand. By doing this it helps your child cope and know what is going on. Trying to keep it a secret from them makes it very hard and often times can be confusing when that person, animal, etc. is no longer around. There is no need to hide it and often times explaining it to them just brings them closer to you and gives them a chance to appreciate their loved one more.
2. Help your child remember the good memories. Talk about the happy times they spent with that loved one. Like the time grandpa took her to the park or when he made all those paper birds and airplanes. And talk about the special things they would do together. The more you talk about the good memories the easier it is for them to cope with that person no longer being there.
3. Explain to your children where your loved one is. This one is tricky but the best option is to go by the beliefs of your family. I told my children that my dad is in heaven with God, which is up in the sky. I told them that he is in a better place where he is not sick anymore. But “heaven” can be anything or anywhere you believe or want your child to believe it is. Make sure you choose your wording wisely because children can take things very literally and can often become confused by your explanation (For example, don’t say things like they went away for a while because this will often lead children to believe their loved one will be back soon). Here is a great book that you can also read to your children that explains what happens to your loved ones.
4. Celebrate your loved one! Every year for my dads birthday my mom, kids, husband and I always get together and celebrate my dad! We do something he loved to do such as go to his favorite restaurant, watch a movie he loved, or visit his favorite places in San Francisco. This helps your child remember your loved one and also re-kindle the good memories. Another special thing we do on his birthday and the anniversary of his passing is have my children send balloons off to him with a note. By doing this, children learn that they can still communicate with their loss and that they are still around them in spirits.
5. Every night my children say good night to my dad. Before they lay in bed they look up to the sky or his picture that I have in their bedroom and they say a prayer and say good night to him and tell him that they love him very much. Children taking time out of their day to talk to their loved ones helps them remember them and also know that they can still hear them and are looking out for them.
6. Get some support/help from a therapist. It never hurts to get professional help. If you are grieving and so is your child, maybe the both of you can go into together and learn tools to cope with your loved one passing.
7. Showing affection with hugs and kisses, helps children cope with death as well. Hugging your child more than often or just spending one on one time and talking about it helps to ease their pain as well.
8. Ask for help from family members or friends. They are there to help! Have them help you and your children deal with the loss your loved one. If you are in pain and still grieving and so is your child, maybe have a family member or friend explain. They may be able to make things clearer for your child. Sometimes if you are still grieving or trying to come to terms with the loss yourself (the numb stage, or denial stage) helping your child cope can be more difficult.
Till this day, it is still hard to cope with my dad passing. Each day, and year gets a little better. He WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. I will make sure to carry his memory with me and pass it on with my children, especially my younger two. They never really got to know him as much as my older one. We will live by his great memories and good times we had, and you must do the same. These tips may not work for everyone but they did and still do help me and my family, so I hope they will work for you.