Losing a family member can be a challenging and emotional time, and as parents and carers, you want nothing more than to support your child with the loss of a loved one. It may be the first time they are feeling certain emotions and knowing how to cope can be confusing and hard.
Mother’s Day holds a special meaning to many of us, but for some children, it can be a difficult day to get through. We have teamed up with our charity partner, Child Bereavement UK (CBUK), to offer advice on supporting children with grief.
It is well recognised that all children, even as young as babies, experience grief, they just show it in different ways. Of course, our natural instinct as parents and carers is to protect our littles ones from any distress or upset. However, without information or using words suitable for their age, children may struggle to make sense of what has happened.
When supporting children with grief, it’s important to answer questions honestly, but keep explanations short, clear, and appropriate for their age and understanding. It is OK if you don’t have an answer to a question straightaway but reassure them that you will come back to them if you find an answer.
Each child is unique and will experience things differently. It’s important to show them how to process emotions in a healthy way that makes the most sense to them.
Painting or drawing emotions can help a child express their feelings if they aren’t sure how to vocalise them. Or, if they are tense and anxious, look for ways to reduce that by encouraging activities such as playing tag in the garden, running or dancing. Reading a story together is also a great way to introduce the subject of grief and help your child cope with loss.
Many families that CBUK support share that the build-up to occasions, such as Mother’s Day, can often feel worse than the event itself. Try to remind yourself and recognise that occasions can be difficult and try not to put yourself under undue stress or pressure. Take some time to switch off and be present with the family.
Doing something in remembrance of someone close to you can be a lovely way to mark an occasion and is a great method of supporting children with grief. By doing something fun or inspiring to remember your loved one, you are teaching your child how to process their emotions in a healthy way. Essentially, turning something emotional and sad into a happier, more positive memory. You could plant a remembrance tree, cook their favourite meal, bake their favourite cake, look at photos, or visit a place that they loved or that reminds you of them.
A special way for a child to cope with losing a family member is to make a memory box or jar to place special items in such as photos or a sentimental gift. Children can also write down their favourite memories such as their favourite song, favourite trip, or the time they burnt the toast.
If you’re finding it difficult in the build-up to an occasion like Mother’s Day, remember we are here for you and your family. Busy Bees works closely with Child Bereavement to offer support to all of our families. For Child Bereavement support, call 0800 02 888 40 or you can visit their website for more information.