Healthy Coping Strategies for Grieving Children and Parents

Child Loss

Posted on June 01, 2018 by

Parents with young children dealing with the loss of a loved one face a particularly difficult challenge working through their own grief while simultaneously trying to help their children deal with death and loss. No one is prepared to help their children grieve.

Tips to Talk to Children About Grief

The tips that follow are meant to support adults and their children as they face a death: 

  • Explain what “grieving” is to your child... that all of the different feelings in their heart, head, and body are parts of grieving and that they are normal and part of the process; without such understanding many children feel confused by their emotions and fears.

  • Let your child know that they might have many different thoughts and feelings and that they are all OK. It’s also OK for them to see you sad, happy, angry, lonely, etc.. 

  • Explain to them that talking about feelings, asking questions, and remembering the person who died can help them feel better. Let them know that they can talk to you.

  • You need to be willing to hear and discuss their feelings and allow them to talk about the person who died.  

  • Go at their pace in addressing question but once they ask you, be willing and prepared to answer them honestly and directly. Some children will ask about how or why someone died, the rituals around the funeral, where the person went, what else will change in their lives. Questions express fears, uncertainty, and concerns so answering them will help comfort your child.

  • Also tell them it’s ok to talk to other adults or friends. Expanding their support circle is a gift in general, but is particularly valuable when children see their parent’s grief and might want to avoid upsetting them and therefore delay or avoid their own healing process.

  • Talk to them about ways you try to feel better when you are feeling sad. Let them know that they can come up with ideas for themselves, as well. This will empower them to feel in some ‘control’ and learn skills that might help them in other life challenges. Some suggestions include:

    • thinking about some of the things you did that made the person proud of you and then doing those things

    • thinking about other people who love you

    • doing something nice for someone else when you are feeling sad

    • making a special memory box

  • As you care for your child, be sure to also take care of yourself – talk to friends, family, or a professional; think of things that make you feel better; keep a journal and spend time with your children doing things that make you and them happy.

For more tips, tools, and interactive guides to help with talking to your children about grief, order a copy of The Healing Book: Facing the Death – and Celebrating the Life – of Someone You Love.

About the Guest Author

The Healing BookEllen Sabin is the author of The Healing Book: Facing the Death – and Celebrating the Life – of Someone You Love and President of Watering Can Press.

The Healing Book is an interactive book to help children and families express their feelings, ask questions and explore their memories about a loved one who has passed away. It is an activity book, journal and conversation starter that children can make their own and use in whatever way best meets their needs during the grieving and remembering process. It is a powerful tool in the healing process that opens lines of communication while also creating a scrapbook of memories that can last a lifetime.

The book has been used in grieving centers, schools, and households, and shared by clergy, funeral directors and operators, hospice workers, and those who strive to support grieving families.

Learn more at or call 212-243-3727.

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