Whether it’s the loss of a loved one or even a pet, supporting your grieving child can be difficult when you don’t know where to start, especially if you are grieving yourself. Read on to find out how you can better support your child through grief and teach them healthy ways to cope.

Share Your Emotions

The grief of losing a loved one or pet will most likely hit you as well. It’s important to recognise your grief and share your emotions honestly. This makes it easier for your child to share their feelings as well. Say things like, "I know you're feeling very sad. I'm sad, too. All of us loved Grandma so much, and she loved us too."

Honesty Is The Best Policy

Give accurate information. If your loved one is in hospital and might not recover from illness or injury, be honest about it. Using euphemisms to describe death or impending death is also not a good idea. Telling your child that a loved one or pet has “gone to sleep” or “gone away” gives false hope that they might see them again. Rather, you should explain that the body of your loved one or pet does not work anymore, and they will not be coming back. This allows them to start the grieving process more healthily.

Recognise Their Stage Of Growth

Children below five do not have a mature understanding of the concept of time and may continuously ask when their loved one or pet is coming back. Toddlers may have a difficult time understanding death and may seem unconcerned, but this does not mean they do not care. It’s important to recognise your child is young and be patient with them.

Understand The Stages Of Grief

Not every child will experience grief the same way, but these are the common stages.

Denial – Children may choose to deny the reality of the loss to protect themselves from the full impact of grief. This is normal.

Anger – After processing the loss, they might see it as unfair, leading to misdirected anger at others or even themselves. Here is where your patience and understanding is needed.

Bargaining – Now having to adapt to a life without the person or pet they lost, children might cope by making deals such as “I promise to never be angry again if Grandpa comes back”. Reassure them that death is natural and no fault of theirs.

Depression – As they progress to accepting their loss, children might become too upset to continue their normal routines and even withdraw from activities and interactions. It is important to let them know this is only temporary.

Acceptance – As time progresses, your child’s feelings of depression will gradually improve, but this does not mean they will be happy right away. That takes time.

It's Not “Just A Pet”

For most children and parents, pets are not just animals but best friends and even honorary family members. The grief of losing a pet is just as devastating, especially since it could likely be the first time your child experiences the loss of a loved one, so the information here applies to these situations too.

Seek Professional Help If You Need It

While most children overcome grief, some of them may be unable to accept or move on from their loss. If your child’s grief seems like it is unbearable, or is affecting their daily lives and overall health, consider seeking professional help