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Assisting Children with Grief

In these difficult times, we are aware that many are struggling with grief and loss.

Grief can be a long and complicated process for adults and there are no right or wrong ways to grieve. But what about how loss affects children? Grief in children can look very different and it is important for adults to be aware of those differences.

Children tend to go in-and-out of grief. It is not uncommon for children to ask questions about a loved one’s passing and then go play right after. As adults, we tend to think that they must need more, right? The standard recommendation is to answer questions asked, anything added would be more about us and our needs vs. theirs. It is also important to answer questions directly and honestly and to be aware of where the child is developmentally and what they understand.

Some adults are uncomfortable talking about death, so they may discuss it as the loved one has gone to sleep or taken a trip. It is important to know that these explanations can create fear in children about going to sleep and/or traveling.

For children 5 and under, they can be told the person’s body stopped working and they can no longer breathe, eat, think, or talk. School age children may feel as though they have done something to contribute to the death of a loved one. If this is the case, reassure them that it is not their fault.

Above all, comfort them, love them, and support them. Although, we want to shield our children from sadness, it is ok to let them see you cry and it gives them permission to feel and express their sadness. Books can be a great way to assist in helping a child process a loss and can also be helpful if we are struggling with what to say.

Here is a list of recommended books for grief and loss broken down by age level:

For Children:

I Miss You by Pat Thomas (Ages 4+)

Always Remember – by Cece Meng (Ages 3-7)

Where Are You? A Child’s Book About Loss by Laura Olivieri (Ages 4-8)

Missing Mommy by Rebecca Cobb (Ages 5-8)

A Memory Box by Joanna Rowland (Ages 4-8)

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (Ages 4-8)

The Elephant in the Room: A Children’s Book for Grief and Loss by Amanda Edwards (Ages 4+)

Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Dealing with Loss by Elf Help Books for Kids (Ages 6+)

For Parents:

When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal with Death, Divorce, Pet Loss, Moving and Other Losses by John James & Russel Friedman

Why Did You Die? Activities to Help Children Cope with Grief and Loss by Erika Leeuwenburgh

Children and Grief: When a Parent Dies – by J. William Worden

Click here for additional book recommendations that explain death and grief to children.


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