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Walking Through Grief with Children

Walking Through Grief with Children

As much as we want to wrap our children in a bubble of only flowers and rainbows, it’s simply not possible. Much to our dismay, they will experience hardships and heartache. They will experience grief.

It is our responsibility as parents to walk with them through their grief, teaching them strategies to cope. If we don’t have strong strategies in place ourselves for coping with grief and loss, it’s going to be even more difficult to pass those on to our little ones.

My children have experienced death close to them, but they were at ages where it didn’t really register. It wasn’t until recently that I was tasked with walking through grief with my children—ages ten, nine, eight and eight.

We are a foster family and welcomed a beautiful baby girl into our home last October. After seven months, it was time for her to transition to her forever family and this was the first experience we have had of a long-term placement leaving our home.

Our family was very much attached and we all needed to grieve the loss of this precious girl. As an adult, I have the tools to process and grieve in a healthy way and I didn’t realize how imperative it was that I teach my children these same tools.

First and foremost, I think it is essential that our children know it’s okay to have big emotions. It’s okay to be happy, sad, angry, and frustrated and it’s okay to show it. Give your children the words for their emotions and encourage them to label how they’re feeling. Allow your children to see you doing the same and be transparent in how you’re feeling.

Children who see us embrace our emotions—the good, the bad and the ugly—will be far more likely to embrace their own. When children feel safe in letting their emotions out, they will be far more likely to walk a healthy path through grief.

Have open communication with your children and explain what they may experience. Grief comes in stages and in waves. Do your best to explain to your children what to expect. My children saw me crying over the spaghetti as I stirred it on the stove and when they asked what was wrong, it was a perfect opportunity for me to explain that sometimes I get sad. It was an opportunity for me to help them understand that the sadness of loss never really leaves.

Children process so differently than we do, and even from one another. Be available for their questions. Be honest and be patient. You may see changes in their behaviors (we did) and what they need most in this time is grace. Give an extra-long hug. Remind them you love them and offer forgiveness.

Walking through grief with our children is hard and it’s a different path than we’ve ever walked before. If you find yourself on this journey, remember your transparency in emotion is a valuable lesson for your children.

By: Angela Jamison is a foster and adoptive mother with four children. Angela loves connecting with other parents, encouraging them on their journey of parenthood. To learn more about Angela, visit her blog at www.angelajamison.com, Twitter @AngJamison04, Instagram @AngJam731 or on Facebook @barrenbutblessed.

Join us at www.just18summers.com for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

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