Is there really such a thing as good grief? Let us consider the more important question: Can anything good come from grief? Absolutely! Since grief is unavoidable, even for our children, let us discuss parenting through grief with these conversation starters.
What is grief?
If your children do not know what this word really means that is understandable. The definition itself covers emotions from simply being annoyed to extreme agony so let the conversation roll for a few minutes until many possibilities are addressed. Then, expand their definition to include heartache resulting from the loss of something or someone held dear.
When have you experienced grief?
Use your parental discretion at this point in the conversation starter. If there has been a recent loss that you obviously know about you can skip this question and move on to the next. However, this is a great opening to hear from your child’s heart. He or she may not have had the opportunity to share their feelings with you about a particular circumstance when they felt grieved. The random, yet intentional, conversation may be just what they need to get this feeling “off their chest.” Listen, do not interrupt, but use nonverbal communication to let your child know that you are listening and that you genuinely care; a nod, a touch, or a tender look will encourage him or her to keep sharing.
What positive outcome can you see from a grieving experience?
Grief after a loss is an expected emotion. As a parent, you cannot protect your child from all grief. You can help them overcome it. Allowing them to share the good memories of the pet, or maybe the family reunion that surrounded the loss of a loved one, will allow them to process their emotions and provide closure to the experience. Children cope with loss differently than adults and may seem insensitive to the situation1. So do not judge their reaction or explanation, just let them share it.
By encouraging the processing of the emotion of grief, you are helping your child grow up with a healthy understanding of life and loss. Always be truthful about the circumstances that may cause grief to avoid unhealthy fears of things like, “falling asleep”, having a pet run away forever, or even “crossing over a rainbow bridge”. 2 You are the parent and your love and commitment to your child will be the best comfort. Having a conversation about grief will also prepare them for the inevitable times ahead.