Talking to your child about grief is a healthy and important step in his emotional development. Our perception of the grieving process is shaped through the way our parents deal with grief. Loss is not optional and we all have to deal with it at some point, the important thing is how we deal with it and how we make sense of what happened.
Talking about grief is not easy, even if we are adults. It’s a difficult topic but we need to deal with it sooner or later. Knowing how to approach this topic will make it easier for you to handle it at the right moment. Here are some things you should know about this topic before talking to your child about it.
Understand how you go through grief and loss.
Since you as a parent are the first one that is responsible for the way your child goes through grief, look closer at the way you perceive grief and loss and how you handled each situation related to that topic in the past.
The most important thing is that you understand that death is a normal stage of life and we should always be aware of it and use it in order to motivate us to life our life fully so we can die happy after we truly lived.
Explain the 5 stages of grief and loss.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler developed a model for the grieving process, which includes 5 stages. These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These are the normal stages through which every grieving person should go through in order to process the trauma of losing someone dear and integrating that event in a healthy way in their memories.
Many times people get stuck in a certain stage and have issues finalizing this process and reaching acceptance. If your child understands that it’s normal to go through each stage, that it’s healthy to feel everything in order to reach acceptance and move on, it will be easier for him to process things. Sometimes you might be able to recognize the stage in which he might be stuck or you could need the help of a child psychologist.
Really listen to him.
Make sure you are there for your child while he is experiencing grief and loss. Listen to him and try to provide the support you are able to provide. Sometimes just being there and listening to your child can be the only thing he needs. Connection and care can get him through this traumatic experience and help him cope with everything in a healthy manner.
Let him deal with grief.
Don’t keep him safe for too long. Let him experience grief when it happens in your family or deal with the death of a pet. Dying is a normal part of life and should become the thing that motivates us to live more fully, not something we fear and avoid. Your child should understand that death comes naturally and everybody can have healthy coping mechanisms for this event.
Help him get professional help.
If you see your child go through grief and having trouble adjusting to this event, help him get professional help. It’s your responsibility as a parent to take him to see a child therapist if you feel he needs support in processing this traumatic event. The sooner he understands what death is and how he can deal with it in a healthy manner, the easier it will be for him to adjust and deal with future similar events.