You Can Help Children Move Through Grief
- By Barbara Ann Simone
- Published 10/12/2011
You Can Help Children With Grief
by Connecting with the
Changeless Power of Love
Whether you are a family member, a friend, relative, or professional, when children in your world are grieving, there’s an opportunity to step in and teach them a valuable life lesson: you can change a “negative” experience into a more positive one by choosing new thoughts and feelings based on the changeless power of love within you.
Children can feel especially powerless when they are grieving over the loss of a loved one – whether it is a person or a pet. Their world feels upside down, as they come to terms with something completely out of their control. Yet parents and children alike can use this situation to connect to their inner spirit and find ways to create happiness and peace as they become aware that their choice of thoughts and feelings helps create their experience.
The first step in this process is for you to open up a peaceful dialogue with your children. Let them know that grieving over a loved one is perfectly normal. And let them know that there are healthy ways to move through it. In the Child Bereavement Program offered by the hospice where we volunteer, the children repeatedly tell us that what they greatly appreciate is an environment where they can talk freely about their feelings of grief with total acceptance. We then work with them in many healthy, creative ways to help them express their feelings – such as arts, crafts, drama, puppets, music and games.
Help them identify all the thoughts and feelings they may be experiencing: sadness, worry, fear, loneliness, guilt, confusion or anger. Let them know that all of their thoughts and feelings are valid.
Trying to shield your children from these intense emotions will not help them learn how to express them in healthy ways. Think of their emotions as energy-in-motion, to remind you that children need ways to process and release what’s going on inside of them, especially as they grieve. Be patient with your children, as they may initially “stuff” some of their emotions until they feel comfortable talking about them.
As your children become familiar with all the thoughts and feelings associated with grief, they are ready to look at them and notice how these thoughts and feelings affect their daily experience.
Children might discover that continually thinking “It’s not fair ! ” about the death of their love one makes them feel upset all day. Or they may discover that they can’t focus on their schoolwork because they feel afraid that someone else in their life may die. We sometimes call these “dragged-down” thoughts and feelings, because they create a “down” experience as we continually focus on them.
Have them notice that the more they dwell on the thoughts and feelings associated with grief, the unhappier they are. Let them know that whatever they focus on, they experience more and more of. For example, the more they focus on being lonely, the greater their experience of loneliness.
Here’s the great opportunity to teach your children they can change their “dragged- down” thoughts and feelings to more positive, LOVING thoughts and feelings that will help to create a happier life experience for them. Ask them to “throw away” or replace the “dragged-down” thoughts and feelings with ones based on the Love already-always inside them.
Here’s one way to do it:
First, have them actually write the “dragged-down” thoughts and feelings on paper (or type them on a computer).
Next, have them crush them up and literally throw the paper in the garbage (or if on a computer - delete the statements)!
Finally, help them replace each “dragged-down” thought and feeling with new, positive statements that affirm their own inner power.