When an elderly loved one is nearing the end of life, we as adult caregivers often need support to get through the rough patches of our own grief.
We aren’t alone in our need for support.
Our young children, the senior’s grandchildren, need our help to deal with their own grieving processes. At this time we may inadvertently overlook their needs in our desire to focus on details and last goodbyes.
This is an important time to help our young ones deal with the loss of their grandparent, especially if it’s their first experience with death and dying.
Children often react to grief differently than adults, with it sometimes affecting them well after the actual death. They may exhibit their grief quietly or act out with behaviors.
Helping Grandchildren Cope with Their Loss
- Listen to them attentively; let them express their feelings as often as they need; give them extra hugs to help them and you too.
- Answer their questions, keeping the information simple. Be honest with them, with truths such as dying instead of saying ‘going to sleep’ leaving the child thinking they will ‘wake up’. Don’t give them messages that sick people die causing them to worry the next time they become ill that they might also die.
- Give them an opportunity to say goodbye if that is possible. This may be in person, over the phone, in a handmade card or some other craft they enjoy. Plant a tree or do something else in the grandparent’s memory.
- Make a photo album or collage using pictures of their favorite events or memories shared between them and the treasured grandparent.
- Read a book together about losing a loved one, such as Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert or When Your Grandparent Dies: A Child’s Guide to Good Grief by Victoria Ryan. Say a prayer (or take another action appropriate for your religious beliefs) for the grandparent.
- Let the child carry with them or keep a momento of their lost grandparent.
- Allow the child to be involved in any family gatherings (as age appropriate of course) including a funeral as long as they are ready. Explain what will happen so they understand and don’t get frightened especially as adults show their emotions openly.
- Give the child a special gift such as a charm that relates to the senior, such as an ice cream cone or pet that represents a shared memory or something belonging to the senior loved one that will be cherished for years to come as a remembrance.
- Let the child know they did nothing wrong and the death of their grandparent is not their fault.
- Let the child’s teacher or other caregiver know about the situation so that they can help the child through the grief process. This will allow them to react to any behaviors that might occur now and as time goes on since it might take time to grieve for a child.
Losing a special grandparent who is beloved will not be easy. You can help the children in your life through this time and continuing to keep a cherished place for them in their hearts. You can help whether you are the parent, aunt, uncle, cousin or family friend using the tips above.
We would love to hear how you helped the children in your life through a loss. Please leave a comment for others. Thank you for sharing.