When a tragedy happens, children may not know how to feel or how to process their grief. Here are some things you can do to guide your child through the grieving process:
Legitimize their feelings.
Grief is an appropriate response after a tragic or traumatic event. Share this with your children and help them understand that what they’re experiencing is real and valid. Acknowledging the trauma is the first step on the path to healing.
Remember that grief looks different for everyone.Even children in the same family who have experienced loss may respond and cope differently from one another. One child may withdraw, another may act out. Give your children room to express their feelings differently and legitimize those feelings. If you find that your child is exhibiting unhealthy behaviors such as extreme aggression or self-harm, seek professional help.
Know when to stop.Not all children can handle knowing the full details of an event, especially little ones. It may be in their best interest for you to limit their exposure to graphic images, videos, or heavy conversations. Many times, children don’t need to completely understand to feel the weight of a situation.
Offer consistency.Consistent support, structure, and predictability will help a child feel more secure as they navigate the grief process. There are no quick-fixes when it comes to dealing with pain, but it can help to know that there is someone you can trust present to love you through it. As a parent, you may need to seek support of your own in order to offer this kind of emotional stability to your children.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”—Psalm 46:1
Grief truly is a process. It’s okay to not have all of the answers. As you seek to support your family, be gracious regarding the expectations you have of yourself, as well as your children. Keep the conversation lines open and continue to wash your family in prayer.
Below are some additional resources you may find helpful: