Canada is grieving, and therefore so are our children.
Grief is a normal and appropriate response to loss, but it is often assumed that children don’t grieve. Not only do children grieve the loss of a loved one, but that same loss can also affect their cognitive and emotional development, as well as threaten their sense of order and safety.
At The Children’s Grief Foundation of Canada, we are on a mission to help these children. We are a non-profit charitable organization that raises funds to distribute to Canadian registered charities that support children’s bereavement. We help to reduce financial barriers by providing funds to help develop or expand programs that support grieving children and their families.
We have put together some tips and resources to help you support children who are grieving.
The Five C’s – What Children Worry About
There are 5 C’s to help us remember what children often worry about: Did I Cause it, can I Catch it, why couldn’t I Control it or Cure it, who will take Care of me now? Children need our time and attention to wonder out loud and work through these worries. With Covid19, there is a real worry around “Catching it” as opposed to knowing that we cannot catch an illness like cancer. By addressing these five C’s, we can help children to feel more secure and process their grief in healthy ways.
Be Honest and Open (and Age Appropriate)
Children need us to be honest with them about how their loved one died. Children will often make up stories to be able to take some control of the narrative. Be honest and be open to their cognitive understanding level. We don’t need to frighten them with details but what they are imagining is often worse than the truth.
Include Children in Ritual
Children should be included, but not forced to attend the memorial, and funeral ceremonies. Prepare them so they know what to expect and allow them to share their thoughts and feelings by writing letters or poems and drawing pictures, to be placed in the casket with their loved one. Children can put together a photo album to help them honour and remember the special moments and memories. Memories warm our hearts and can soothe a grieving heart. Creative activities such as these, help children to express their thoughts and emotions.
Reading Together Can Help
Reading together with grieving children is another helpful activity. We suggest, “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst, and “Grief on the Playground” by Shanice McLeish. Your local library and bookstore can help you to find children’s books about grief and loss. A favourite book can be read again and again.
Reach out for Support
Asking for help is courageous. We are all in this together. Reach out for support if you and your family are grieving.