When loss hits your family, your first reaction might be to shield your child from the experience. However, grief is a natural part of life that everyone must deal with at some point. When you help your child through the loss of a loved one, you can teach them to celebrate life and cherish the good memories rather than fixating on their grief. One of the most critical parts of processing grief is learning how to say goodbye. It can be difficult at any age, but when you listen openly and work with your child, you can create meaningful closure for everyone. Start the conversation with this guide on how to help kids say goodbye to a loved one.
Normalize Different Responses
Everyone handles grief differently. Most people understand this on a cognitive level, but even adults can struggle to accept their different grief responses. Children will also face this challenge, so show your kids that there’s no wrong way to grieve. Make sure your child hears different examples of grief. You can talk about your own emotional responses, both currently and in the past. Your child needs to understand that they aren’t the only one experiencing these feelings and reactions.
Be Honest About the Situation
Kids often surprise us with how much they can handle. While you don’t want to overload your child with details, you should be honest and open about the situation. Sit down together, and explain your loved one’s condition. Listen carefully to what your child has to say, and do your best to answer their questions honestly. Don’t put off these conversations. For example, if a loved one still has a few months to live, now is the time to talk to your kid about hospice care or any other treatment plan your loved one has. Talking through it will help your child process their reaction and come to terms with the situation, which will make it easier to say goodbye when the time comes.
Let Them Decide What To Do
Once you give your child all the facts, let them decide what they want to do. One of the essential aspects of helping kids say goodbye to a loved one is to give them some control over the situation. Maybe your child wants to say goodbye while your loved one is in the hospital, or all the machinery may be too frightening for them. Your child may wish to participate in the funeral, or maybe they need to say goodbye without strangers’ attention. Work to help them understand exactly what to expect when they say goodbye. Figure out a setting that they’re comfortable with so that they can have space and confidence to say goodbye to their loved one the way they need to.