Another one of my precious preschool children I taught and helped care for since she was born just had to learn of her daddy’s death. I identify with her mom who had to tell her what no mother wants to tell her child. This will forever shape and define who this delightful girl is. Her devoted daddy was with her one moment and gone the next. It is so hard for adults to deal with the reality of death. It is just as difficult for kids to handle…but they do. They could use our help, though. The adults who are there for the child are usually grieving also. It is so important not to forget the kids during this time. They may look Ok, just like you do—but they need some extra care during this time as well. Besides, it gives you purpose to keep going.
My four children ranged in age from 2 years old to 17 years old at the time of their dad’s death. Several older widows told me that I was blessed to have children still at home to make me have reason to keep going each day. Even as we deal with our own grief, we need to actively seek ways to help our children express theirs.
• Expect new fears to surface—especially at night time or nap time when it gets quiet and lonely. Try to ease them into sleep by providing vitally important bedtime routines including prayer, story, the best thing that happened to them today… Tuck them in and reassure them you are there. ALL ages need this!
• Let them know you are hurting, too—that it’s OK to cry. Cry with them, hold them. Let all ages know you both need extra hugs right now.
• Give them a large huggable stuffed animal with their loved one’s photo around the neck (in a soft frame like a luggage tag. It will be cuddled more than you know. Some people make a pillow of shirts the loved one wore.
• Reassure them you will be OK. That you will be there for them and will care for them. They may never have seen you grieve and may think you will not be able to care for them.
• Let them know when you are leaving and coming back. Everyone is fearful of losing another loved one when it is so real.
• The greatest gift you can give your child is to share your faith in eternal life—that they will be reunited with their parent—that there will be no more death—that because of Jesus we can count on a joyful life after death. If you are not sure of that, perhaps this is the time to be sure.
• Talk about your loved one. Share memories—especially funny ones and pleasant times.
• Use the MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU for children to let them make their own memory book to keep forever. There are pages to spark their own precious memories to draw, write about or put photos in.
• Let them play but don’t be surprised when something will trigger a new wave of grief. When it happens, let them talk, cry or just hold them til it passes.
• Expect extreme and sudden changes of emotions. Be extra patient as they work through these. Help them find ways to express it. Let them know you have crazy emotions right now, as well.
• Encourage a regular routine to maintain order during such a chaotic time (for you both!)
• Children will reexperience grief at big moments in their life as they grow- like learning to drive, graduations, their wedding and birth of their own child. These are peak times they realize anew how much they miss their parent.
• Sometimes children do not feel open to share their hurt with you because they know you are hurting and they do not want to add to it. Keep reminding them that it is good to express their grief and you can get through this together. Reassure them you are still a family.
• For more help got to my website or join My Forever Memories of You grief group on Facebook
• For more help, get one of the MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU books available in adult and children’s versions.
Love and prayers,