​A Child's View: Talking About Grief

BY: Shavaun Jones, M.ED., PC

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

"How are the children doing?"

As a Children's Bereavement Coordinator with Hospice of the Western Reserve, I am often asked this by parents, family members, teachers or service providers assisting the grieving family.

"Ask the child," I reply, "Be gentle. Be concerned. But ask the child." 

Asking these questions directly serves more than one purpose. It can break the ice between adults and children in discussing grief issues. It also assures the child that the adults around them understand that they have feelings too. Most importantly, the adult can receive first-hand information on how the child is doing.

When we know how a child is grieving we have the information we need to offer support. Remember however, that just because we ask does not mean we will receive the information we need at the time we need it. The child's knowledge of grief, death and dying, like everything else, is growing and developing. We must be patient. We need to open the door for conversation and let the child know it will remain open.

It is also important to pay attention to the different ways children express their feelings and reveal their grief. I've worked with some children who don't talk much about their grief but they make beautiful art presentations in honor of their loved ones. I've encouraged parents to ask the child about their art and what it means. 

One teenage girl created a playlist of songs in honor of her deceased mother. Some of the songs were her mom's favorites and some were songs she herself used to cope during periods of sadness and anger. The song playlist told an awesome story of this teenager's grief journey. There are children who are really good at sports. They use their competitive nature not only to blow off steam from the stress of grief but also to win awards and trophies in honor of their deceased loved ones.

As parents, older relatives and teachers, it is okay to ask children directly how they are doing after a major loss has occurred. Be ready to accept the fact that children will respond in their own way and in their own time. Be open and supportive to their expressions of grief. That is the most critical thing we can do for them.

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