Helping Children Cope with Grief

A child’s understanding and reaction to death depends on his or her stage of development, closeness to the deceased and interactions with family members.  Typically, a child experiences a range of emotions including sadness, fear, anger, and confusion. As a parent or other family member, it is a good idea to encourage your child to express these emotions, and journaling is one of the best ways to do so.  Journaling is a great way for children of all ages to acknowledge and come to terms with the emotions they are feeling after the death of a loved one.  For instance, younger children typically think symbolically rather than verbally, so you can encourage them to draw pictures and/or color in their journal. This way, rather than struggling to put their feelings into words, the child can express his/her emotions through artwork. This should give you the insight necessary to communicate about death and grieving with the child in a productive manner.

For older children, journaling provides an avenue for them to explore the complex emotions they are experiencing, while also offering an opportunity to remain close to their loved one.  They can journal about the good times they shared with the loved one, or even try to come to terms with things they didn’t get to say before death.  Finally, in a day and age when children are often sheltered from death, ( parents refusing to allow the child to come to the funeral home or see the deceased) a journal can be a great way for a child to say goodbye in their own time and on their own terms.

Although every child deals with grief in a slightly different way, most, if not all children will find the process of putting their emotions down on paper very helpful.  Thus, as a parent or family member of a child experiencing the loss of a loved one, you might consider helping the child begin to journal.  It just might be the empowering tool the child needs to cope with death in a healthy, timely manner.