Google+ Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas: Helping Children Cope with Grief

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Helping Children Cope with Grief

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. My BFF just experienced the loss of her father-n-law today. Loss is always difficult but I find it's that much harder to cope with when it is sudden and unexpected.

My BFF has 2 wonderful daughters ( ages 4 & 3) whom she must now explain to that their grandfather is no longer physically with them. How do you do that?

To a child the idea of death is usually seen as temporary and reversible. Think of all the movies and cartoons out there today. My Lil Divas play "dead" all the time by sleeping and then being awakened by some sort of magic. How do you help them understand that death is constant. Their grandfather is not just sleeping, he is going to be asleep forever and they will never see him again.

I thought about this a lot today. A LOT!

A child's grief is complicated. Loss and death rarely make sense to us adults - how can it make sense to a child?

My heart is pained for my best friend and her family. Not only do they have to deal with their own individual sense of loss and grief but they have to find a way to explain this all to these little girls - forever changing the innocent way in which they view this world. This will be no easy task.

I can only imagine that the best way to help a child this age understand what has happened is to be as honest, simple and straightforward as possible. They are too young to fully grasp the concept of death and will most likely need to be reminded of what it will mean in terms they can understand.

Being a spiritual family, I am sure she will explain that their grandfather is now in heaven (another difficult concept) and that he is no longer physically here with them. They will need that concrete reminder.

I think the best thing the family can do right now is simply provide affection and nurturing and allow the girls to freely ask questions and express themselves. For a young child who has never experienced death, this is all new and confusing. They won't really know what to expect or how to act. It would be wise to be prepared for regressive or acting out behaviors, indifference or even denial. Don't we adults behave much the same way when faced with grief and loss?

It's going to be a long and hard road.

If you belive in the power of prayer - I ask that you pray for this family during their difficult time.

If you believe in the power of positive vibes - I ask that you please send some their way.

If you have experience in deaing with children and grief - please share your thoughts and ideas! Help is welcome and I will be sure to pass it along.

Thank you for letting me unburden my heart and mind with you tonight.


  1. Wow, I am so incredibly sorry for your friend, I cannot even imagine what she is going through especially with the task of explaining it to her children. I cant even cope with death well, I lost my first born, and it has been 9 yrs 4 days ago, and I STILL cant cope well with it, so I can only imagine what they are going through right now. But I do totally agree with what you said, let them grieve however they are going to and be open and honest. Its all you can do...I will pray for them! :0)

  2. They will be on my mind!
    New blog follower from Friendly Friday! Would love for you to follow me back at

  3. Will definitely say a prayer for them! Stopping over from ftlob. Take care :)

  4. I lost my father to cancer a little over a year ago and my daughter was just over two at the time. It was very hard for her to understand but I decided to tell her that Papa was up in the stars watching over us. She understands that her Papa was sick and that now he is not here. On her birthday and her Papa's birthday we released a balloon and watched it float away to the stars...She speaks frequently about my father and even though it makes me sad that he is not here it makes me happy that we all find comfort and a warm heart thinking about him watching over us. I hope you friend finds a way to discuss her loss with her children. There are also lots of childrens' books out there that she might find helpful.

  5. I just read this blog for the first time today and although it's been over 2-1/2 years since this was originally posted I wanted to share some thoughts with you from my personal experience. In our primary organization at church where children 3 to 12 are taught gospel principles, we have what happens when a person's spirit separates from their physical body, death. It goes like this: the teacher talks to the children about their journey from the presence of our Heavenly Father (in spirit) to earth where we gained a body. She takes her bare hand and slips it inside a glove (her new body, or as I like to call it, her "earth suit". She lives her life growing and learning, developing her talents and learning to be kind, caring and loving. When it's time for her to return to her heavenly home, she slips her hand out of the glove. This shows the children that it is the spirit that was within the glove that gave it life. Once the spirit is outside the body, the body is lifeless but the spirit lives on. We just can't see it but it's there, just the same. We don't view death as a permanent separation, only temporary and the children seem to find comfort in that.
    I had not seen this lesson plan at the time my husband's grandmother passed away and our son was 5 years old. It was the first funeral he had attended and we had explained to him that she had gone to live with Jesus. However, on the day of her funeral there was visitation just prior to the service and my son was with us in the visitation room with other family members. Two men entered the room and started to remove the large spray of flowers on the lower half of her open casket in order to close it. My son's eye's got big and he leaned in close to whisper to me, "Mama, if Mamaw is going to go live with Jesus, she better go now because they're about to close that box!" We had to remind him that just her body was going to be in "that box" but that her spirit had already gone to be with Jesus. That was our son's first experience with the passing of a family member but he was not traumatized by it. It's now 35 years later and he's an amazing man who just happens to be a fireman/paramedic, a husband of 21 years with two beautiful daughters ages 5 and 7. Thanks for letting me share this experience with you.


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