The biggest problem
children have in coping with their grief is the inattention and lack of
awareness adults have in the need to talk about it, express all kinds of
feelings around it, and to help children to find a way to compensate for the
Often parents are ill
equipped to deal with grief in their children, because they have a hard time
dealing with it themselves. For example, many stoic type families just held it
in, enforcing the need to be strong. If you grew up in a family like this, you
would have no outlet to express your feelings. It would not be welcome and you
would know it, so you hold your feelings in. These people become parents and the
cycle is repeated. If you let the feelings out, it's healthy, normal, and gives
you a place to build from. Naturally, if you express your grief, you need to
know where to go with it next, and again, if you are a parent, you need to know
how to direct your child.
I have dealt with many
kids who have no way to connect to their deceased parent. I ask them how they
keep their mom or dad's spirit alive, or keep a relationship with them, and they
say they don't know. They are unaware that the relationship and image of another
in your thoughts and in your memory never dies. The body dies, but the spirit
does not. It is so strange how people can believe in and connect to a God that
they have never personally witnessed or seen, but those same people can't
connect to a person they actually saw, knew existed and loved.
People all over the world
connect to the spirit of God, regardless of the lack of empirical evidence. They
can believe in what's told to them to believe, but can't make the connection on
their own. Children need to learn to make a spiritual connection. They need to
find ways to talk with their deceased loved one. Parents have to guide kids on
this one, no matter what their age.
I had a young girl
recently who lost her dad, and was unable to talk about him, even though I asked
lots of questions. It was too painful. She needed to let her feelings out. She
was channeling her feelings out in the wrong direction, being needy with boys,
and always angry at her mom. When we worked together, and I helped her to
understand that her dad's spirit was alive, around her and in her, she began to
think differently. She slowly began to focus on memories of her dad, and what he
had given her, rather than focus outside herself. She became connected to him
again in a new and different way, but a way that worked.
She expressed her anger at
him for dying and leaving her. He was so good at so many things that he could
have taught her, and wasn't there. She expressed her sadness at his terrible
suffering from cancer, and the anger at how it destroyed him. No one could talk
about it because it was too sad, and that made her feel even more alone. After
she got the real feelings out, we could work on keeping her memory alive with
her dad. If you are a parent dealing with a child who has lost someone dear and
you have too, get help for yourself and help your child. Here are nine things
you can do.
that you need to go to a cemetery to express yourself to loved ones. If you
teach spiritual development, you are aware that the person doesn't live in the
cemetery. They live in you heart and mind which are with you everywhere. You
want to keep that memory alive by carrying out behaviors of the person.
tangible reminder that you can see everyday. Keep their favorite item in your
closet, or favorite picture in your room. Dedicate a sculpture or statue or
flower arrangement in your house to them. Plant a tree in your yard for them, or
balloon and attach letters to them and let it fly free to the universe.
them in a special journal only for them and your private communication to them.
something that they liked to school.
favorite meal, or make their favorite cake on their birthday. You can even take
a piece of cake and bottle of wine to the cemetery or their favorite place on
their birthday. If you feel sad, let yourself be sad.
to children about their deceased loved one, reminding them of how they are like
that parent or have such good qualities like them. If they are sad, disconnected
or don't answer, that's ok keep doing it.
with yourself for the loss, and dealing with it if you are having trouble
helping your children. If you don't get help for yourself you will not be able
to help your children with the things that they need to do to keep their loved
ones spirit alive.
children to live consciously, day by day in the moment. Life is short and we
don't want to miss connecting to anyone that we love, dead or alive.
Author: Sally Sacks, M.Ed
is a licensed psychotherapist, with 20 years of experience, counseling
individuals, children, families and couples. Sally is the author of
How to Raise the Next President, a groundbreaking parents’ guide to teaching
and instilling in their kids the qualities they’ll need to be happy, successful
and productive, no matter which path they choose in life. Sally offers personal
and group coaching and can be reached through her website at