The information offered is in no way to be used as a substitute for seeking help from your healthcare provider. If you are having feelings of depression, anxiety or desperation please seek help from a health care provider immediately.
It is difficult to understand how to deal with our own grief, yet in the midst of it we must help our children through their grief. What are steps we can take to help our children? TALK…..TALK……TALK with your children. Do activities with your children that will help them open up and discuss the things they are thinking about. Help them understand that no conversation is off limits. Reassure them that if they say something that makes you cry, that is okay. They did not make you sad, the circumstances in your life are making you sad, and it is good to spend time talking and crying together. Spend time with each of your children individually. Your children will grieve differently and need assurance that you understand the depth of their pain. Grieving is time consuming. It is going to be your full- time job for a while.
Spend a greater amount of time with your children and let them be more dependent on you during the months following your spouse’s death. Allowing your child to cling to you more often than usual is acceptable during your grieving experience. Physical affection is very comforting to your children.
Provide play times for your children to help relieve tension. Coloring, or doing art projects often provides your children the opportunity to say how they feel through pictures rather than words.
Understand that children cannot always express how they are feeling, and frequently their feelings come out in the form of behavior changes. Some children will grow quiet and sullen, while others become more physically aggressive and disobedient. Talk to them about the changes you see and explain to them why they are acting differently. Disciplining your children during the grieving process can be frustrating. Pick your battles, but do not allow their grief to result in poor behaviors. Allowing bad behaviors to become a habit for your child will mean difficulty later on.
Maintain as much of a normal schedule as you can. If you need to make changes in your normal daily routines, talk to your children about them, and keep the new changes consistent. Focus on the basics of life, attempting to have consistent meal times, and maintaining bedtime rituals and routines. Do not be tempted to keep your children up after their bedtime for companionship. Use the time after your children go to bed to focus on your grief. Some parents are tempted to have their children sleep with them after the death of their spouse. Give time and consideration to this before it becomes your new routine. Often parents use this to avoid dealing with their own grief or the child’s grief. Sleeping alone is difficult, but sometimes it is better to face pain straight on rather than substituting it with routines you may later regret. If your child is fearful to sleep in his room alone after the death of his parent, it may be a better option to have him sleep in his sibling’s room. You may find that one of your children’s rooms has become a tent city, with everyone curled up on the floor. Adding a new nighttime routine to help your children relax is often profitable. Playing soothing music, or allowing them to fall asleep with a light on may help them to feel more secure.
Most children will have difficulty concentrating on academics after the death of their parent. The length of time it will take your children to return to academics will vary. It is imperative that your children be encouraged not to become despondent when they return to academics if they are having difficulty focusing on their work. If your children attend school, make sure they have a support system around them. If you homeschool, incorporate your children’s grieving experience into their schoolwork. It is important that we keep our priorities in view and not become so concerned with educational objectives that we miss the opportunity to help our children grow spiritually and emotionally in times of crisis.
An excellent way of helping children who are troubled with a lack of concentration, is to give them the opportunity to take music lessons. Using the brain to organize eye / hand coordination helps rebuild concentration skills.
As difficult as it is to think of dealing with pets after the loss of your spouse, remember that pets are often a child’s best outlet during times of crisis. If possible, do not disrupt the pets in your child’s life. Pets help your child (and often you!) maintain some sort of schedule of feeding and care. As difficult as this sounds, in some circumstances, this is a good time to add the responsibility of a pet to your child’s life, if you do not have one already. Just as taking care of their children often helps widows-widowers find purpose for their lives after the death of their spouse, taking care of a pet can help a child feel needed.
Many children automatically assume some sort of responsibility for the death of their parent. Since death is not a logical process in the mind of a child, often in the process of asking why, they determine that they must have some how been responsible for the death. In some situations they may not blame themselves, but blame the remaining parent. Communicate to your children the importance of not allowing blame to cause bitterness within their hearts. This, of course, can only happen if you are not harboring bitterness in your own heart. Sometimes helping our children through their grief forces us to come to terms with ugly thoughts we are allowing into our own minds. The Lord requires us to be good examples to our children, EVEN in the midst of our sorrow.
Remember that children rely on things that are concrete rather than abstract. Combining visual, tactile, and verbal reinforcement for them will bring greater results when dealing with their grief. The very young child who comes to ask you where daddy is multiple times a day, may need more than a verbal reminder that daddy is in heaven. A heart- shaped lapel pin to wear on her shirt, or her very own laminated picture of daddy to carry in her Winnie-the-Pooh backpack, may help serve as the reminder she needs. Allowing her to sleep in one of daddy’s tee shirts or walk in daddy’s big boots adds a tangible way for her to work through her grief.
Talk with your children about heaven. FOYCWW has discovered an interesting fact: even though your children have been raised in church, sometimes they have little understanding about heaven. Read to your children the Bible’s description of heaven. Play songs for them that give accurate information about heaven’s beauty. But most of all help your children understand that their parent has been released from the cares of this world and is in a magnificent cloud of saints worshiping at Jesus’ feet.
Don’t feel pressured to have your very young children understand the entire picture. As they grow up you will have ample opportunity to help them understand much more. Preschool children may think that daddy is still sick in heaven. Do not worry about correcting their theology right now! In their minds if God has healed daddy, why hasn’t he come home to take care of them? It is important that they not feel abandoned by the loss of their parent, and be given the chance to understand more as they mature.
It is difficult to understand how to deal with our own grief, yet in the midst of it we must help our children through their grief.
What are steps we can take to help our children?
TALK…..TALK……TALK with your children. Do activities with your children that will help them open up and discuss the things they are thinking about. Help them understand that no conversation is off limits. Reassure them that if they say something that makes you cry, that is okay. They did not make you sad, the circumstances in your life are making you sad, and it is good to spend time talking and crying together. Spend time with each of your children individually. Your children will grieve differently and need assurance that you understand the depth of their pain. Grieving is time consuming. It is going to be your full- time job for a while.