Losing a loved one is never easy. For children especially, it can often be a traumatic experience that is hard for them to comprehend. Having a caring adult who will guide them through the healing process can not only help them grieve, but also create opportunities for growth and transformation.
As a parent or caregiver, the best way for you to offer comfort is to first help children feel safe and secure, reassuring them that everything is going to be okay. Through our grief services here at Sytsema, we know firsthand that children need to feel that security before they are comfortable enough to mourn the loss of their loved one.
Though it can be painful walking with a child through their time of grief, we’ve compiled five helpful ways you can guide your child through the healing process. Keep in mind, there is hope after loss, and you don’t have to do it alone. Our staff takes pride in helping you and your family every step of the way.
- Be there to listen.
There is healing power in being your child’s listening ear. Sometimes not saying anything at all and allowing children to speak what’s in their heart can make a world of difference.
If your child is talking with you about the death of a loved one, let your child speak, and then respond with caring and comforting words or even just a hug if you’re not sure what to say. You won’t always have the answer, and that’s okay. Letting children express their feelings helps them work their way through the healing process.
- Create a picture album and share stories.
Pictures help us remember our loved ones, and creating a photo album may be the perfect healing tool for your child. Spend some time together picking out favorite photos and keep a journal of memories to go along with it. One of the most helpful ways to honor a loved one is to share happy, lasting memories about them.
- Start a new tradition.
Creating a new ritual to honor your loved one can also provide a sense of comfort for your child. Every year, choose a day to remember the person you’ve lost by doing something special, like planting a tree, lighting a candle, or collecting keepsakes. This allows children to say goodbye in their own way and keep a loved one’s memory close.
- Reassure them it’s okay to feel different emotions.
It’s healthy for children to express the emotions they’re feeling, and oftentimes it’s even more important to reassure them that it’s okay to feel these emotions. Children are vulnerable, so they may go through stages of sadness, anger, worry, depression, guilt, or confusion. One minute your child may be crying and the next seem completely fine. Give your child as much time to heal as needed. There’s no time limit on the grief and healing process as it’s different for every child.
By letting children know it’s okay to release their emotions for however they need to, you’re helping them heal and cope with the loss.
- Encourage healing through drawing and coloring.
Ginger Wolffis was a grief counselor here at Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services for over 25 years. She has experienced firsthand the loss of loved ones, which has played a major role in her decision to dedicate her life to serving and helping families through their time of grief. When meeting with children, Ginger was always very fond of having them express their emotions and feelings by drawing a picture of their loved one or a memory they shared together.
Many times, children dealing with grief don’t have the words to express how they feel. By allowing them to spend time drawing pictures of their loved one, it helps them to share what they remember and the emotions they’re experiencing. Try taking the time to draw and color with your child. Sometimes the simple acts of just being together is powerful enough to provide the peace and comfort children need.
The death of a loved one is always difficult. For children especially, going through the loss of a family member or friend can greatly affect their sense of security. If you need help guiding your child through the healing process, our staff would be honored to meet with you. Please contact us at Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services by visiting our website or calling 231-726-5210 or 616-842-6100.