Supporting Your Child Through the Loss of a Parent

Parents play a foundational role in their children’s lives, no matter their level of involvement. Whether a close or estranged relationship, our parents shape who we are. So when a parent dies, that foundation is inevitably shaken. As a child, the loss of a parent is heartbreaking. Children can experience a level of grief which is profound and often difficult to comprehend, especially as the whole family is going through their own grieving process. 

If you’re reading this article because you have lost a spouse, co-parent or close family member, we extend our deepest condolences and know that a blog can’t fix the pain you and your family is experiencing. We hope in the midst of deep uncertainty, however, you find support in this article as you navigate this new reality of parenthood.

Be Open and Honest

One of the hardest parts of losing a parent, especially as a child, is wanting to understand “why.” While this answer does not remove the pain, it is important to be as honest as you can with your children; honesty is often the avenue towards processing the death and eventual acceptance. It’s important to share with them what has happened and give them space to ask questions. Children have a remarkable ability to perceive when something is wrong, and withholding information can lead to confusion and feelings of isolation. As you’re also grieving, let them into your process. Sharing your grief may invite them to feel those heavy emotions as well.

Be Present

Your job isn’t to be strong enough for your kids, especially if you’re grieving as well. Your job is to be present. If all that looks like is sitting with them and crying with them, that’s enough, that’s honest. Every family copes differently and as you all figure out new family dynamics, your simple presence will provide a safe and supportive environment for your children to grieve and find a new normal. Part of being present is attending to the present needs of yourself and your children. Work to maintain your self-care while attending the present day-to-day needs of your children.

Listen and Validate

Grief is a complex and individual experience. Understand that your child may process their emotions differently from you or their siblings. Let them know that their feelings are valid, whether they feel sad, angry, confused, or even relieved in some cases. Avoid judging their emotions, and instead, create a safe and non-judgmental space for them to express themselves.

Receive Support

During this difficult time, remember that you do not have to go through it alone. Reach out to family members, friends, or support groups who can offer emotional support and understanding. Connecting  with others who have experienced similar loss can be incredibly valuable for both you and your child.

Share Positive Memories

Sometimes the saving graces of any grieving process are the memories we hold of the people we love. Keeping these memories alive and heard serves as a connection point to the loved one we lost. Create space with your children to reflect on positive memories and even share the ones you have with their parent. Keeping these stories alive will make some of the hardest days a little easier.

We know there is no one-best-way to experience all the tears, pain and grief that comes with losing a spouse and a parent. This is a process you and your family can navigate together. We hope you remain open to the support of friends and family as you begin the grieving process. We are here at Decade2Connect to support families who are grieving and encourage you to connect with us if you or your children need somebody to talk to. 

Our Intensive Outpatient Program is in-network with United!