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Helping a child navigate the ups and downs of grief

One thing that you can’t protect or prepare your children for is the pain of loss.

My son lost one of his grandmothers and he is learning how to cope with his feelings. Although this is not the first time our family has lost a loved one, it is the first time that he is fully aware of what death means.

As a parent, I feel it is my responsibility to allow and encourage him to express his feelings. It is good for everyone to discuss how they are feeling so children are able to develop healthy coping skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

Death is a common theme in books, cartoons, on television and especially in the news over the past year. When we watch television together or he reads about deaths of characters in his favorite graphic novels, we have been discussing how he feels and working through those emotions.

There are moments when he is extremely playful and times when he withdraws into himself. I just make sure that I am there whenever he wants to share stories about her or ask questions about attending the funeral.

Here are some tips that I have found helpful to get us through his time of grief:

• Ensure that your child gets closure and understands that there is no time limit on grief.
• Encourage your child to express what they know about their loved one, perhaps drawing or writing down fond memories.
• Getting support from family and friends. It is important for us to be surrounded by people and keep our spirits up.
• Maintain your family routine because it provides great comfort to the entire family.
• Take care of yourself. Self-care is essential to help your mind and body deal with your own grief.

My son will be attending his grandmother’s funeral and will participate in the service as a pallbearer with his father and brothers, so that he has closure. He has been talking to his siblings, cousins and friends about his grandmother.

I have also let my son know how his grandmother’s death has affected me. In the past, the grieving process was very dark and I fell into a depression. Our discussions have ranged from happy moments we shared, to being upset about living so far away from her, which prevented him from spending more time with her.

Whatever he needs I am here to emotionally support him. I even get a few extra hugs from the young man that is officially taller than me.

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