The grieving process is different for every person and children must grieve too. Grieving is an important part of letting go of someone or something. Children may not be aware of the permanence of death or may be unsure of how to grieve. To help children cope with grief, it is first important to make sure that the children understand that it is okay to grieve and that every person grieves in a different manner.
The first thing you can do to help your child cope with grief is to let them know that the death is not their fault. Similar to divorce, children may feel guilty over the loss of a loved one. Ensure your child that death is a part of life and was not caused as a result of their actions.
Children will feel an empty gap in their lives, especially if the loved one was a close member of the family. Having a picture or memorable item on hand to give to your child will help to fill that gap. While items will not erase the loss, they will help your children feel like they are still close to the deceased.
It is also a good idea to have your children express their feelings. If they cannot talk about the loss, it may help to write them down. Feelings can be written down in the form of poetry or a letter to the deceased. Giving your child a journal will give them a private place to store their thoughts.
It is beneficial to discuss any religious or spiritual beliefs that your family may have. It is okay to explain that a loved one is now in Heaven if that is what you believe. Younger children may not understand the concept of an afterlife, or even really care. Your support is the most important thing to them during a period of grief.
Children experience grief too, in their own way. Explaining the concept of death to them and reinforcing that there is no blame placed on them is a positive way to show a child how to grieve. Children are very good at expressing themselves in writing and a journal may be the outlet that your child needs to help him cope.
Feel free to explain any religious beliefs that you may have, and understand that what a child really needs during a period of grief is to know that they are not to blame, they are loved and that you will be there to guide them through the process.