Helping children through grief and loss is different than walking through loss as an adult. Children often express and experience grief differently than adults. It’s not less grief than adults experience, but it’s expressed and experienced differently.
Kids experience grief from many kinds of losses in childhood:
- the death of a grandparent;
- the death of a parent or sibling through death;
- the separation or divorce of parents;
- the death of a pet;
- losses experienced through fostering and adoption;
- losses experienced from moving;
- losses experienced from a chronic diagnosis.
In fact, one out of five children under 18 will suffer the death of a relative or close friend. And one out of every 20 children will experience the death of at least one parent before reaching 15 years old.
While we can’t take away the pain our children are experiencing, we can help them navigate it. Grief can be overwhelming for a child, as they suddenly have big and hard emotions, loss of appetite and concentration, sleep disruption, fear and more.
If you’re walking a child through grief or loss right now, I’m sorry. It’s tough to know when a child is reacting from grief or showing typical behavior. It’s tough to know when to probe their heart and when to stand back and keep a watchful eye. And in a family all suffering the same loss, each child may respond differently.
How can you best help a child navigate grief and loss?
You may have local counselors, a children’s grief center or help at your church. But these are rare and parents need to be informed of what to expect, how to shepherd their children throuhg grief and what proactive steps can help.
First and foremost, ask God for wisdom. He knows our children better than we ever could and He promises to generously give us wisdom when we ask. (James 1:5)
Second, I’ve gathered my top Bible-based resources to get you started.
Navigate: Navigating Loss and Grief with Children
This is a free downloadable resource brings together tips and insight from more than a dozen women who have walked their children through various losses. Their stories and hard-won wisdom are shared from a Christian perspective to bring hope into your own loss. Sign up here to download this excellent resource.
The Best Books on Grief for Children and Teens
When children are grieving, it’s so important to keep an ongoing conversation about what has happened and what they are feeling. Books for children’s grief can help prompt that conversation. I’ve compiled a list of the top Christian books on grief for children and teens here. This list is regularly updated as new books are published.
Children’s Grief Awareness Day
From their website: “Children’s Grief Awareness Day is designed to help us all become more aware of the needs of grieving children — and of the benefits they obtain through the support of others. Children’s Grief Awareness Day is an opportunity to make sure that grieving children receive the support they need.”
Adventures in Odyssey
Focus on the Family produces the award winning radio and podcast drama for children, Adventures in Odyssey. Here’s a list of episodes that deal with grief and loss. Scroll down and click through “Broadcasts and other audio” to access the episodes.