As adults, we know that loss is part of living. At this point in life, we’ve each had to deal with some kind of loss. It could be the loss of a pet, a loved one, a relationship. Even though we’ve been through loss ourselves, it can be difficult to know how to guide our children through loss. It can even be difficult to know how to process our own sense of loss in front of our kids. So how can we help our kids deal with loss in a healthy way?
There is no “right way” to grieve
Each of us expresses pain and grief in our own ways. Because of this, it’s important to note both how you process grief and how your child processes grief. Some of us cry a lot, while others are quiet and thoughtful. Some of us want to talk through our feelings and memories. Others may prefer to write things out or collect and save memories like photos or special items. And so, there are as many ways to process our grief as there are people grieving. So let’s show grace and acceptance in how our own children process grief. In doing so, we can help our kids deal with loss in their own healthy way.
Signing has repeatedly helped children express their feelings when they did not have the verbal ability to do so. Sometimes our kids are too young to talk. And sometimes our kids are under such heavy situations that they just cannot talk about it. But when they know the signs to express themselves, this can be a safe way for them. And they use their signs to express their feelings. We’ve heard of children using signs when in the hospital so that they can express themselves to their families without having to talk in front of all the hospital staff. Signing provides a safe way for children to say how they feel.
We can help your kids learn to express themselves
The Signing Time family is happy to provide signing resources to help you and your children express feelings through signing. We have a huge signing dictionary to help you find the signs that apply to your current situation. You can find our Signing Time Dictionary here, and you can find the section on Feelings here. These are great resources to get started on some signs for expressing how we feel. If you are ready for more teaching and help with signing, you can check out the free section of My Signing Time. In our free section, you can find sample episodes of our different series, and you can see if a My Signing Time subscription is right for your family. You can even try it out with a 14-day free trial right here.
Allow grief to be expressed
Throughout our lives, we may have learned that it is important to be strong, to not let our emotions show. As a result, we feel that we need to be strong in front of our children, to always be OK. However, we have to consider whether or not this helps our children deal with loss in a healthy way. If they see us holding back our sadness, then they learn to hold back their sadness. When we all do this, that sadness will come out eventually. And often it comes out in very negative ways, like losing our tempers or as a child acting out.
It’s wiser and more healthy to freely express our own grief in front of our children. When we are free to be sad, our kids learn that they are free to be sad. This played out in my own home last weekend. We have a few chickens, which are primarily for eggs, but we named them and we love them. On Saturday morning, I found one in very bad shape. I knew I didn’t have much time to figure out what was wrong. So I set about evaluating her and trying to save her. But in the middle of our efforts, she died.
My children tried to hide their sadness. And at first, I tried to be positive and help everyone to be OK. But I was sad too, and as I thought about it, I knew that I shouldn’t hide my own sadness. So I cried, and they cried too. We were sad all day. We talked about our chicken all day, and we talked about her with fewer tears the next day.
And do you know what? By Monday, we were all fine. When I chose to be alright to cry about it in front of my kids, they knew they could express their grief too. When I allowed our loss to be the main topic for as long as it needed to be, my kids were able to work out their feelings of loss and get through it all.
And now we are able to move forward without that feeling of loss hanging over us. Now, this was “just” a chicken, an easy loss to move on from. There will be bigger, deeper losses for us and our families as we go through life. These losses can take much longer to process and work through. But as we help our kids deal with loss in a healthy way throughout life, we’ll all be more prepared to deal with deeper losses when they come.
Be willing to get more help
So let’s show our kids our own feelings of loss, and by doing so, we can lead them and help them deal with loss too. At the same time, in watching how our children deal with loss, let’s be sensitive to when they may need more help. Really, we need to be sensitive when we may need more help ourselves. Heavy and deep loss can leave us with long term anxiety or triggers, and both parents and children will need extra help to deal with these in a healthy way. Let’s be willing to get outside help and counseling when we need it for ourselves or for our children. There is no shame in needing help, and outside counsel is another healthy way to deal with loss.
Remember, we can help our kids to deal with loss in healthy ways! What can you start doing to prepare your kids to deal with loss?