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 processGrief 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?
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