Helping Our Kids Grieve

Our kids need our help to process the grief they feel when they go through losses, disappointments, and tragedies. They don’t know what to do with their powerful feelings. They grieve over lots of things – from small things, like the top of their ice cream cone falling on the ground, moving, losing a friend, or going through major crises.

Grief helps us adjust to what was lost

Grief is usually a long-term process of adjusting to what was your child’s reality and re-connecting with what it is now.

The bigger the loss, the more difficult and complex it is to let go. What we often don’t realize is that this process can continue for a long time, depending on how big the loss is. The more attached, the more grief. Most of us underestimate the depth and scope of the initial loss.

It is essential to both ourselves and our children to learn how to grieve through life’s tragedies and disappointments. You may be surprised to find out that grief can be your best friend. It is God’s answer to processing loss, pain, and disappointment. He is an expert at grief and transitions, and completely understands. He doesn’t expect us to have our grief processed within a certain amount of time. He is faithful to love us and our children through difficult times.

Our kids and teens need help

When our daughter was eight, her friend moved away and she didn’t know what to do with her sad feelings. She cried about him moving away every night when she went to bed. Her grief wasn’t resolving on it’s own, and I realized she didn’t know what to do with these painful feelings.

I said, “Would it help you to understand what’s going to happen with your feelings over time?” And she said, “Yes.”

I said, “Well, for the first week you’re going to feel really sad every night, and you may cry. Then next week, starting on Monday or Tuesday, instead of feeling this sad, you’ll feel half as sad. And then sometimes at school every once in a while, you won’t think about missing him. Then after a month, you’ll think about him and be sad just one or two nights a week. Then in three months, you’ll be really sorry he’s gone, but you won’t have that pain in your heart like you have now.”

Then she said, “Oh, okay,” and went to sleep. I realized she had all these emotions, and had no understanding that her painful feelings could lessen over time.

The next day she asked me, “”If I don’t miss him as much, does that mean I don’t care about him?”  I explained, “When you notice not missing him as much, it doesn’t mean you don’t care about him. You will care about him forever and he will always be a favorite friend of yours. You’ll always remember him, but it won’t hurt as much.”

I was surprised how much this helped her. It gave her a context to understand her feelings and realize they would get less painful over time. This was her first experience of someone dear to her moving away, and she didn’t know what to do with her painful feelings.*

Grief is a process

Grief is the process of feeling our emotions, adjusting to reality and to our new normal. #grief #grieving #grievingkids Click To Tweet

When people do not grieve, they may remain stuck in what’s happened to them, become bitter, anxious, or depressed, and withdraw from the good parts of life still available to them. Grief becomes more manageable over time. It is normal for grief to ebb and flow with time.

Processing grief in healthy ways while being compassionate with ourselves is the most powerful way I have found to get through the hardships of life. Please teach your children how to do this as well. It makes getting through the ups and downs of life so much easier. Learning to grieve through all losses, small or large, is what will help you and your children handle the realities of life and continue to grow and thrive. They will learn how to process grief by what you teach them, but even more by how you process grief.

It was my pleasure to recently be interviewed by Dr. Christina Hibbert on this very topic, “Helping Children and Teens Grieve” We had a great discussion, and at the end Christina roleplayed being an upset little girl that I talked too.  I hope it helps you help the kids and grandkids in your life as well as helps you process your own grief.

I’d love to hear from you

Were you ever taught how to grieve growing up? What was most helpful from this blog post and video? How else have you helped your kids and grandkids grieve the losses of life?

Please leave a comment below and share with those who could benefit via e-mail or on social media.

* This story from Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children

If you resonated with my article, please subscribe to my blog. You will get a free copy of Top Ten Ways to Parent with Compassion, which will help you build a strong relationship with your children.

6 thoughts on “Helping Our Kids Grieve

  1. There were a lot of excellent points made by both of you in today’s blog. Grief is so unique to each individual, yet we can be facilitators for our children and others in sharing these suggestions. I, too, had not thought of newborns as “grieving”, but it is true!
    Thank you for another valuable lesson that we can use for ourselves and for others.
    Love you more!

  2. Wow, Kim, your video with Christina was really awesome (I took lots of notes); praising God you were feeling good & able to do it.
    You brought up & made so many solid points in the video, especially learning to identify & process your own grief so you are equipped with experiences & tools to help your children learn to validate & process the many losses they will encounter. Personally I believe that unprocessed loss is a pervasive condition that contributes to the erosion of society. How can you “own your own stuff” when you are schlepping around years of denied or stuffed or unprocessed loss? It’s really hard to be authentic when a person has a bunch of unprocessed hurts that can be triggered by even the smallest event. I believe unprocessed pain & sadness are at the core of so many of the horrific headlines we hear about these days.
    Thank you, Kim, for your campaign to help people learn to be more gentle with themselves (& each other); what a difference it can make in peoples’ lives & ultimately society as a whole. A huge undertaking for sure & God is getting all the honor & glory. He is certainly using you educate & bless those who follow your blog.
    Peace, grace, love & hugs from Lynda

  3. Wow! The subject of your post is so important! I wish I’d known earlier about the necessity and value of taking time to grieve. When loss and heartache nearly swallowed me up a few years ago, I reached out for help and began the process of learning how to grieve. It has made a huge difference. I’ve encountered others since who find themselves in the same place I was. To know that what you’re going through is normal and necessary helped me and them to feel less alone. Thanks Kim!

    1. Dear Roberta,
      Thanks so much for your input. Being able to grieve is SO important. Congrats to you for taking active steps to help you grieve heartfelt losses. I am so very glad for you. Appreciate your encouragement 🙂

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