How do I help my grieving child

Child and youth mourning Ludwigsburg

What can help grieving children and young people

Children and adolescents are just as affected by the death of a loved one as adults are. Each and every one in their own way. Even if children deal differently with their grief, show or hide other things, it is important to include them according to their age, to inform them and to let them participate in the grief of the family / group etc .. Because children and young people feel anyway, already from an early age that something is “in the air”. If we include them, they can understand their environment and themselves better and learn by experiencing how we in the family and society deal well with the challenges in life.

The following points are based on the “Charter for Grieving Children”, which was formulated in 1992 by the “Wiston's wish” association in Great Britain:

  • Adequate information
    i.e. answers to their questions and information that clearly explains what happened, why it happened and what will happen next. You don't need to tell more than the child asks for or can process. It will continue to ask what it still needs when it feels that the subject is not a taboo.
  • Be involved
    i.e. asking grieving children to what extent they would like to be included, enable them to participate and point out alternatives.
  • Enable a tangible farewell
    In order to be able to "grasp" death with the children and young people, consider whether they would like to see the deceased again and attend the funeral (with preparation and accompaniment), how they can "actively" say goodbye: paint something, write a letter, choose a photo of yourself and put it in the coffin or grave (but preferably not your favorite cuddly toy, which is also missing).
  • Promote age-appropriate forms of expression
    Children are allowed to tell in their own way about what they have experienced and heard, or express it, include it in their play, draw from it or express it in words. It is important that these stories are heard, read or viewed by people who are important to them. Young people tend to do this with writing, poetry, diaries, listening to music or doing it themselves, through contacts with friends and through various Internet forums.
  • Express feelings
    Mourners can freely express their feelings, whether anger, despair, fear, joy, guilt and much more. You will be supported in doing this in an appropriate manner.

  • Not to blame
    Children and adolescents who grieve should know after a loss that they are not responsible for and are not to blame for the death.

  • Giving space to memories
    Grieving children have the right to remember the deceased for the rest of their lives if they so choose - adults too, by the way!
  • Rituals and familiar routines provide orientation, stability and continuity
    Familiar processes that provide security, maintain loved activities and interests or change them over time (meals, bedtime stories, games, club activities ...). They work without language.
  • "Grief-free" zones
    It is also good to have places where the topic is not hushed up, but also not as present as e.g. at home: in kindergarten, school, the club. Talk to the children / young people about what is dear to them and at the same time consider who should be informed about it in order to be able to offer protection with consideration.
  • Respect for all kinds of farewells / losses
    Farewell to kindergarten, the move of a friend, the lost doll, the death of a pet, the separation of the parents ... are farewells that can be just as difficult for children as mourning a deceased person. Be very compassionate with all of these losses.
  • Stay in relationship / connection
    Stay in contact, ask questions, offer yourself, but also respect distance. So we also treat the range of feelings with respect, not judging them or wanting to change them - but e.g. "Yes, it's sad that ... died." - and endure it ourselves. If a child doesn't cry, it is not a sign that they are not grieving. Trust your intuition in physical contact and also check it. Answer questions and go on a joint search for possible answers. Maintain truthfulness as a basic human attitude when dealing with others.
    Doing things together is particularly important when it comes to contact with young people: a walk, a common line of sight. Young people do not want to talk to adults about their inner workings often and especially not. It can definitely help to talk about yourself - and leave it at that.
    Children and adolescents with experience of loss often put adults to the test and want to check their reliability. Usually happens unconsciously. Give them this security and don't avoid them.
    Trust in the self-healing powers of the children and adolescents and support them. And wherever questions remain or it could do well, also take advantage of professional help.
  • Get together with other affected people
    It can be beneficial for those who grieve to be given the opportunity to meet others who have had similar experiences.

Finally, consider:

What is helpful to children may also be good for adults ?!

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